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TORIES insist that all donations to their party are “properly and transparently declared to the Electoral Commission … and comply fully with the law.”
They claim there is no cause for concern over HMRC failure to investigate money laundering and tax fraud allegations against their party’s biggest corporate donor Lycamobile.
Yet there is clearly a bad smell emanating from somewhere since the Tory Party decided nearly two years ago to cease taking donations from the company after helping themselves to £2 million.
Assuming that the HMRC email explaining reluctance to probe laundering and fraud allegations because of Lycamobile’s relationship with the Tories is genuine, this issue cannot be swept under the carpet.
Imagine that this wasn’t a transnational corporation and a Tory government but a Labour administration on whose watch HMRC had refused to examine similar charges against a trade union that gave financial backing to Labour.
Would Theresa May or Chancellor Philip Hammond reassure us in such circumstances that all was above board, nothing to see here, move along please?
They and their friends in the right-wing media would be all over it like a rash, insisting on a forensic examination of union and HMRC and fulminating about the inevitability of a corrupt relationship between Labour and its “union baron paymasters.”
If HMRC, the agency responsible for ensuring that every individual and corporate body pays the required level of taxation, felt it had the right to give — or lacked the authority to refuse — the largest Tory corporate donor a free pass over these serious charges, this requires urgent investigation.
We have seen in recent decades sweetheart taxation deals cut between senior HMRC officials and major companies that have aroused widespread anger.
But the added element of a transnational corporation shovelling funds into the country’s ruling party takes on a more sinister hue.
The Commons Treasury committee announcement that it will question HMRC staff about the decision not to work with the French revenue service to investigate Lycamobile is welcome.
There can be no justification for attempts to sweep this potential scandal under the carpet simply because it is embarrassing to May, Hammond and their cronies.
It is not acceptable that anonymous HMRC “sources” are deployed to smooth things over, to explain that the email reference to the Tory Party was simply “background information” and to suggest that this is all a storm in a teacup.
The time for flannel is over. Openness and accountability dictate that the Treasury committee should get the drains up.
A bold proposal from John McDonnell
BEST of luck to John McDonnell in his laudable efforts to persuade the financial sector to play a constructive role when Labour is returned to office.
City banks have grown too used to dictating terms to government as though piling up profits through a variety of means, many quite questionable, qualifies them to lay down the direction of economic policy.
Even after the economic crisis triggered in 2007-8 by the global banking network flogging worthless subprime mortgage packages to each other at successively higher prices, the finance sector still assumes the moral high ground.
As McDonnell says, prevailing economic orthodoxy has proved a disaster for working people if not for those sitting in bank boardrooms, so the finance sector must accept having to make a greater contribution to the common good.
His offer of a seat at the table, alongside trade unions and manufacturers, to the finance sector, could be bold, foolhardy or both.
At the very least, he should count his fingers at the close of every meeting.
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