Today we took a step towards mob rule – and the only thing we learned is that politicians' tax returns are dull

Public figures are being bullied to reveal the tax they pay by those who will never have to do the same. That is profoundly wrong

Oliver Wright
Monday 11 April 2016 18:34
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Jeremy Corbyn, it transpires, filed his tax return three months late and was fined for the delay
Jeremy Corbyn, it transpires, filed his tax return three months late and was fined for the delay

So the mob got a bit of what it wanted. And, as a result of the public clamour for our politicians to reveal their tax affairs we, now know – in ascending order of interest – that:

5) David Cameron now owns no shares although he did before he was Prime Minister.

4) George Osborne owns a house and he gets a tidy rent from it each month.

3) The Chancellor also earns more than most families do in a year from dividends paid by his family’s wallpaper company.

2) That’s nothing compared to Boris Johnson who is surely being paid too much (£250,000 a year) for his weekly political knock-about column in the Telegraph.

1) And, most interesting of all, Jeremy Corbyn can’t fill in his tax form online and was three months late submitting the paper version, resulting in a £100 fine.

Forgive me if I’ve missed something, but it seems to me we have learned nothing of substance from this new-found spirit of openness. I’m not sure that what we do now know even amounts to prurient tittle tattle. It is all very dull.

Of course, some people will be shocked by the levels of income enjoyed by our senior politicians. And that is a legitimate subject for debate. But the problem is this: in this country, we have a long standing principle that everyone’s personal financial affairs are a matter between them and the taxman.

There is plausible argument to be made that this is wrong, that we should move to the Swedish system where the tax that every citizen pays is public and can be scrutinised. There you can see what your neighbour as well as the Prime Minister pays. It is fair.

But we are moving to a situation in Britain where public figures are being bullied by those who don’t have to reveal the tax they pay into doing something that they themselves would probably balk at. That seems profoundly wrong, and one tiny step towards mob rule.

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