Given that HMRC's recent findings on tax avoidance will hardly come as news to most Spear’s readers Osborne’s ’shock’ reveals either alarming incompetence or complete dishonesty (or both).
Successful politicians are adept at adjusting their own moods to chime with public sentiment. The likes of Gordon Brown — with his embarrassingly gruesome grin and robotic manner — will always be hobbled by their inability to display their shared humanity with the common voter, to demonstrate that they share the same concerns and triumphs as the man on the street. Tony Blair, by contrast, was a master of strategic public displays of emotion.
If Osborne was trying to demonstrate his ‘common touch’ by telling The Daily Telegraph that he was ‘shocked’ at tax avoidance among the super-wealthy, then he hasn’t quite grasped the lesson. Yes, to many taxpayers the HMRC survey —which studied anonymised tax returns to reveal that the wealthiest individuals are paying an average of less than 10 per cent income tax — is shocking. But ‘shocked’ implies an element of surprise.
And given that these figures will hardly come as news to most Spear’s readers Osborne’s ‘shock’ reveals either alarming incompetence or complete dishonesty (or both). Osborne could have said he was ‘appalled’ or ‘disgusted’ by the report, and he would have found many ordinary taxpayers in agreement. Osborne has been Chancellor for almost two years now; these basic features of the UK tax system should no longer come as a ‘shock.’
The Chancellor may look surprised, but Spear's is unconvinced
What next for the self-righteous coalition government? Will Andrew Lansley soon declare that he is ‘shocked’ that NHS patients are placed on waiting lists for non-emergency operations? Will Philip Hammond soon express his ‘shock’ that we are spending billions a year on foreign combat? Is Justine Greening ‘shocked’ that there are regular delays on the jubilee line?
There are after all no other jobs where you can regularly express ‘shock’ regarding your own failure to live up to your responsibilities. I have yet to express my ‘shock’ to my editor when missing a deadline. When I have, I shall insert the inevitable scathing response here.
If tax avoidance by the wealthy is to become a topic for public debate in cash-strapped Britain, Osborne owes it to both low and high income tax payers to debate the subject honestly. Think what you will of the HMRC’s report, for the wealthy, their advisers and the Treasury, its findings are far from shocking.
Read more by Sophie McBain