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

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

C# Algo-Developer (BDD/TDD, ASP.NET, JavaScript, RX)

£45000 - £69999 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Algo-Develo...

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, Apache Mahout, Python,R,AI)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

£50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

Java Developer - 1 year contract

£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The power of anonymity lies in the freedom it grants

Boyd Tonkin
Rebel fighters walk in front of damaged buildings in Karam al-Jabal neighbourhood of Aleppo on August 26, 2014.  

The Isis threat must be confronted with clarity and determination

Ed Miliband
Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone