Andy McSmith's Diary: Lord Ashcroft moans about missing the boat on tax exemption


Lord Ashcroft, the billionaire peer who made his fortune in Belize and elsewhere and who almost single-handedly kept the Conservative Party financially afloat during the lean years after Labour’s 1997 landslide, seems to be very cross that there is no escape from the House of Lords.

He was put up for a peerage in 1999 by William Hague but the political honours scrutiny committee at first blocked his nomination, then laid down the condition he should make the UK his home. This was understood by others to imply that he should become a UK taxpayer, but having refused to discuss his tax arrangement for 10 years, Ashcroft finally revealed, just before the 2010 election, that he was a non-dom, paying UK tax on only part of his income.

That same year the new government passed a law, which included a Section 41, which laid down that any MP or peer would in future be deemed to be a UK resident for tax purposes, regardless of where they made or kept their money. MPs who wanted to stash their cash abroad could always escape this clause by quitting Parliament, but a peer is a peer for life. So peers were given a one-off chance to resign, which a handful did.

What Lord Ashcroft seems to have missed is that it was only a one-off opportunity, and those still in the Lords are fated to be treated by HMRC as UK taxpayers for as long as they live. His latest, cross sounding written question demanded:  “Are there any proposals to allows members of the House of Lords to be exempted from Section 41 if they take permanent leave of absence and do not attend the House of Lords thereafter; and, if not, why not?”

The reply from the minister responsible can be summarised in one word – “No”.

Are Mail readers stifling opinion in Bahrain?

Here at home, the Daily Mail is leading a vehement campaign to protect press freedom from what they perceive to be the threat posed by Parliament. Meanwhile, in Bahrain there is no free press. There have been street protest for months about the absence of freedom. Now, the Gulf Daily News, which calls itself the Voice of Bahrain, has claimed triumphantly that world opinion  is turning against the protesters, because - they report - “Comments posted on the website of Britain's Daily Mail newspaper … were overwhelmingly in favour of the police.”

You hear the craziest things in Cambridge

Attracting a lot of ‘likes’, this extraordinary message is on the Overheard at Cambridge Facebook page: "In Sainsburys, I ended up in the queue for the self-checkouts behind the former Archbishop of Canterbury.

Rowan Williams (pointing to my neck): Is that a Lord of the Rings pendant?

Me: Yes, it's a replica of the One Ring.

Rowan Williams: Ah, I thought so. More of a Game of Thrones man, myself.

Mind. Blown."

Tweeters take Helm to task

The war between the Political Editor of The Observer and the writer or writers of an anonymous Twitter account called Tory Education News gets nastier. It cranked up after The Observer alleged last month that two special advisers working the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, are among the contributors to the feed.

This has so infuriated whoever writes Tory Education News that they have posted no fewer than 35 personal attacks on Toby Helm, The Observer’s Political Editor, in 35 days. He has been called a ‘Labour stooge’, a ‘laughing stock’ and a “halfwit”. He is further accused of having supported the creation of the euro, a charge that appears to date back to the late 1990s, when he was Brussels correspondent for The Telegraph, and Gove’s abrasive special adviser, Dominic Cummings, was running the anti-euro campaign.

Late on Monday night, an anonymous @toryeducation writer was busy again, tweeting: “@tobyhelm Your colleagues say you sent your kids to private school. They being unfair?”

Helm says: “That is factually 100 per cent wrong. All my children went to state primary schools and they are all at the same state Academy school.”

If it is ever proved, as The Observer alleged, that this stuff is being posted by highly paid government employees, it will blow up like the scandal that ended the career of Gordon Brown’s adviser, Damian McBride.

voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
voicesSiobhan Norton on why she eventually changed her mind
Scottish singer Susan Boyle will perform at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Glasgow
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BI Manager - £50,000

£49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

BI Project Manager - £48,000 - £54,000 - Midlands

£48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...

VB.Net Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes