The financial world of the rich and famous is a murky one, with powerful individuals and corporations carrying out countless shady acts to obscure their wealth from the rest of us.
Have you ever noticed how the richer people are the less likely they are to mention their money? Salaries and inheritance are a “private matter” and discussing them is the height of crassness.
If you’re on the dole or on minimum wage, everyone knows what you are earning. Money is talked about freely because it’s a survival necessity.
“I get time and a half on Sundays.”
“My benefit’s been suspended.”
“Have you got that tenner I lent you?”
In more affluent circles, if money is spoken about at all, it’s done in mock tones or it’s disguised in a sombrero and called something like “cashola”.
This week, we all got a glimpse behind the curtain of privileged privacy when the largest data leak in history, the Panama Papers, told us who had been ferreting money away in the Central American nation with the negligible corporation tax and the secretive banking system.
Around 11.5 million files from the database of the world’s fourth largest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca, were released for the world to see and the rogue’s gallery on show included 143 politicians and 12 national leaders.
(Can you imagine how much skullduggery is hidden in the accounts of the three largest firms?)
Britain, being such a hub for the well-heeled, was well represented and the first name that caught the eyes of UK journalists was Ian Cameron, father to our PM David.
The late Cam Snr was an investment banker (*not rhyming slang) and set up an investment fund in the Bahamas called Blairemore Holdings. In 30 years the fund didn’t pay a penny of UK tax. Effectively, by obscuring wealth that should have been taxed, the fund stole money from the British people and put it in the hands of rich investors.
This was no hapless celebrity listening to bad advice from “morally wrong” accountants; Ian Cameron was the one who set up the fund. He even hired Bahamas residents to do paperwork and keep the offshore company tax exempt.
When quizzed, at first Dave tried the standard reply when uppity plebs ask impertinent questions about your finances, saying it was a private matter. When pushed he claimed that he, his wife and children, would not benefit from the fund – in the future.
Of course, he said nothing about whether he had benefited in the past.
Cameron’s dad stole money from us all and spent some of it sending his kid to Eton…but apparently David hasn’t benefited in any way.
Maybe the British taxpayer should send him an invoice: 1 x top notch education, 1 x inbuilt feeling of privilege and entitlement, 1 x network of powerful friends (but I have no idea how you would price this up).
It’s now being argued that poor David had no say in how his dad spent the money he stole.
This argument is familiar to black people; it’s the “get out of reparations” argument.
“We acknowledge that this bad stuff happened but the people who did it are now dead, so just move on.”
If my father stole someone’s wallet and gave it to me, claiming that I wasn’t the original thief wouldn’t protect me when the angry wallet owner turned up at my door.
If you are still in any doubt that tax avoidance is considered a low priority crime, consider that 3250 DWP staff members are assigned to pursuing benefit fraud, which robs us of around £1.2bn each year – 300 are assigned to pursuing tax evasion, which steals £70bn.
This matters because we are constantly told that we don’t have enough money to look after our elderly or to care for our sick.
Junior Doctors fighting for our NHS
Talking of our sick, this week saw the fourth strike by junior doctors.
More than 5,000 operations had to be postponed because of the 48-hour walk out as young doctors fight back against Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt trying to force new contracts on them.
Hunt claims he is trying to introduce a 7-day NHS for the good of the public but it seems fairly clear he is getting the service into an attractive state for it to be salami sliced and sold off.
Despite the inconvenience of delayed operations, the general public understands what’s going on and the Junior Doctors’ strike is well supported. So far there have only been partial strikes but later this month a full strike is planned, this will see the NHS refusing to provide emergency cover for the first time in its history. Consultants will cover emergency services so emergencies will still be covered but the severity of the strike is a sign of just how determined the young doctors are to stand their ground.
So far there have only been partial strikes but later this month a full strike is planned, this will see the junior doctors refusing to provide emergency cover for the first time since the NHS was formed. Consultants will cover emergency services so emergency care will still be provided, but the severity of the strike is a sign of just how determined the young doctors are to stand their ground.
The fight for our NHS is underway and junior doctors are on the frontline. I, for one, will join them at the barricades – in spirit at least.
The Green Party – with jelly
This column, White Men Dancing, started because Parliamentary Politics is childish, navel-gazing and often irrelevant.
It was refreshing to see this lampooned in the Green Party’s new broadcast which replaces our politicians with a bunch of primary school kids.
The highlight for me was a young Theresa May, working as an immigration guard and deporting dollies that don’t have enough money.
A work of creative genius.
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White Men Dancing is a weekly column. Kiri Kankhwende and Maurice Mcleod keep an eye on Westminster. Politics is too important to leave to politicians.
Maurice Mcleod is a social commentator with Jamaican/Swazi heritage. He is director of his own communications company, Marmoset Media, and writes regularly for The Guardian and The Spectator among other titles. He has commissioned for the Guardian, Media Diversified, Engage Magazine, Open Mind, Single Step and Voluntary Voice. Before setting up Marmoset, he had a 15-year career as a national newspaper journalist working for The Express, The Independent, The Voice, The Evening Standard and The Sunday Times among others. He is also a trustee for campaign group Race on the Agenda. Maurice often appears on Sky News as a talking head and writes about social issues, behaviour, racism, politics, diversity and housing. On Twitter he is @mowords
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Other articles in this series:
White Men Dancing: The EU Referendum Hokey Cokey
White Men Dancing: We’re all cleaners
White Men Dancing: Disability and Other ‘Lifestyle’ Choices
White Men Dancing: Robbing disabled Peter to pay privileged Paul
White Men Dancing: Forget Labour’s List