Tuesday, 27 March 2012
“We’d all do it if we could get away with it, wouldn’t we?”. Anyone who has ever discussed tax avoidance will have heard this phrase at some point. The underlying assumption is that we would all be siphoning our money off into foreign bolt-holes if only we had the fees to pay an effective accountant. And perhaps the cynics have a point. Even supposedly left-wing politicians are turning themselves into “companies” these days, in order to pay corporation tax at 20 per cent rather than personal income tax at 50 per cent. Pop stars are feeling the urge to “go and buy a gun and randomly open fire” when they see their tax bill because “state schools are shit”, and the country’s most famous Formula One driver upped sticks and left for tax-lite Switzerland long ago (under the guise of “safeguarding his privacy”, you understand).
It would seem that those who are able to are keeping what they can. And as for the rest of us, if we could, we would all be doing exactly the same.
It is often said of Thatcherism that it encouraged us to see greed as a virtue. It would be more accurate, however, to say that it very successfully smeared altruism as at best naive and at worst foolish. In 2012, it is not the fact that you are minimising the tax you pay that requires an apologetic disclaimer attached, but the fact that you were ever happy about paying tax in the first place. As U2 guitarist David Evans, aka “The Edge”, once rhetorically asked (presumably during time-out from telling the Irish government to give more aid to Africa) “who doesn’t want to be tax-efficient?”.
Continue reading at The Independent.
Thursday, 15 March 2012
One of the most shocking statistics to come out of a recent Mumsnet survey on rape was the astonishing number of victims who felt that society viewed them in a negative light.
Nearly three-quarters of those polled said the media was unsympathetic to women who reported rape, while more than half said the same was true of the legal system and society as a whole.
The perception is not as far from social attitudes as we may like to think. A survey of more than 1,000 Londoners in 2010, carried out to mark the 10th anniversary of the Haven service for rape victims, found that more than half of those questioned said there were circumstances when a rape victim should accept some responsibility for an attack.
Whereas social attitudes towards racial equality and homosexuality have tended to become more progressive as the younger generation has come through, attitudes towards the sexual assault of women appear to lag significantly behind. A 2008 poll of Northern Ireland university students commissioned by Amnesty International found that almost half of those polled believed a woman to be partially or totally responsible for being raped if she had behaved in a flirtatious manner. And the recent controversy over the website Unilad was perhaps most striking for the fact that the creators of the site did not consider their “banter” about rape to be anything out of the ordinary until they were pulled up on it.
Continue reading at The Independent
Thursday, 8 March 2012
I have several problems with the popular notion that there’s no money left. I think the first time the absurdity of it struck me was when I heard the incredibly wealthy entrepreneur Deborah Meaden saying it on Question Time during a debate about striking teachers and dinner ladies. I recall looking round a room of friends, wondering who would be the first to guffaw at the gargantuan level of irony in the statement. No money left? Well, she seemed to be doing ok.
There are other occasions too when the language of austerity jars with reality, most notably when it comes to the renewal of Britain’s nuclear arsenal. Trident was excluded from the government's strategic defence and security review in October 2010; and despite murmurings from some Liberal Democrats (aren’t there always murmurings from Liberal Democrats?), the coalition seems intent on spending £20 billion-plus renewing a weapons system which, if ever deployed, would result in the deaths of thousands, if not millions of human beings.
Twenty billion is just a figure of course. To put it into some kind of perspective, George Osborne’s first budget planned for cuts of six billion pounds; and public sector workers currently face a three per cent rise in their pension contributions to save the state just under two billion.
Continue reading at The Independent