Andrew Grice: David Cameron may live to regret speaking out about Jimmy Carr's tax

 

Share
Related Topics

At the very moment that Downing Street was telling journalists in London that the Government did not normally comment on the tax affairs of individuals, David Cameron had other ideas 5,550 miles away in Mexico City. Interviewed by ITV News on the last day of a three-day visit, the Prime Minister was asked about reports back in Britain that the comedian Jimmy Carr had sheltered £3.3m a year from tax through a Jersey-based avoidance scheme.

Mr Cameron had read the reports on his iPad and decided not to pull his punches. He said some such schemes "are frankly morally wrong", accusing the comedian of putting money raised from his hard-working, tax-paying fans into some "very dodgy tax avoiding schemes".

Good populist stuff, especially in hard economic times. But some Conservative MPs think Mr Cameron was unwise to jump on the tax avoidance bandwagon. "Sometimes it is better to think before you leap," one said. Yesterday, Mr Cameron was inevitably asked his views on Gary Barlow of Take That, who is reported to take advantage of similar tax shelters. This was a bit closer to home since Barlow was awarded the OBE only last week.

The questions were batted away, but they won't go away. Mr Cameron reverted to the Government's traditional line on people's tax affairs, insisting Carr was "an exception" because his details had been published. Similarly, Number 10 sought to draw a line between "aggressive" and more routine tax avoidance. Tricky, and the questions kept coming: journalists wondered whether Mr Cameron had condemned Carr because he is a "Labour celebrity" but is coy about Barlow because he is a Tory one.

The proverbial genie is out of the bottle and the media will not stop asking Mr Cameron his views about other celebrities, Tory party donors and businessmen who advise the Government.

His surprising remarks have also revived the media's interest in whether the tax returns of senior Cabinet ministers would be published. Mr Cameron said in April he was relaxed about that but the issue has gone quiet since.

Number 10 insists the matter is still under consideration but it might have been kicked safely into the long grass if the PM had not waded into the row over Carr. Why did he break with convention? Downing Street's private polling shows that the public's number one concern about the Government is that it is "out of touch". This is very dangerous for Mr Cameron because the evidence given to the Leveson inquiry has reminded people about his "country supper" lifestyle and well-heeled background.

If you asked voters what the Government had done on tax, the chances are they would say it had cut the 50p top rate for the rich rather than the Coalition's preferred answer – raising tax thresholds at the bottom. Perhaps this was another reason why Mr Cameron played hardball on tax avoidance. He may come to regret his intervention – and the decision to cut the tax on incomes over £150,000 a year when millions of ordinary people feel so squeezed.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Administrator

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a security software com...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketing / Sales Co-ordinator - OTE £25,000+

£10000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This provider of staffing and r...

Recruitment Genius: Kitchen Porter

£19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the four inns of Court is seeking...

Recruitment Genius: Chef De Partie

£20000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the four inns of Court i...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A memorial to the1982 war between Great Britain and Argentina in Buenos Aires  

Argentina poses no military threat to the Malvinas Islands. So why is the UK ratcheting up tension?

Alicia Castro
 

Daily catch-up: religion, politics and roads named after dictators

John Rentoul
War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?