Labour’s John McDonnell on Google and tax avoidance

I wrote this post yesterday about the recent news about a tax deal reached between HMRC and Google. In the comments a reader alerted me to an interview on Channel 4 News with Labour’s Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell. He’s almost very good in it. As seems usual these days, no Government Minister was willing to be interviewed about Google (no empty chair though again), so Cathy Newman stepped in. She tried her best to trivialise the issue, but McDonnell didn’t do too badly under her line of questioning. He did a reasonable job of linking the issue of tax avoidance with the concept of ‘fairness’. This is the correct way to address the issue in my view, but he went about it the wrong way in one sense, and dropped a clanger in another.

A couple of times he implores companies to “pay your taxes”. The trouble is though, they are paying their taxes according to the law. What he should actually be doing is targeting the anger at George Osborne to “change the tax system”, preferably with a few concrete ideas about how to do that. By focusing on the companies themselves, he lets the Government off in a big way and makes it purely an administrative issue on the part of HMRC, saying they are not doing their job right or are underfunded.

McDonnell’s clanger came when he talked about taxes paying for things he thinks should be funded. By doing this, he sets himself up to fail later on because whenever he suggests a policy, the Tories will either say there is a funding black hole or that taxes will have to go up on ‘hardworking families’ to pay for it. A smarter play would have been to just hype the fairness aspect. Every individual and SME can relate to having to pay a more ‘standard’ rate of tax, so the unfairness of tax avoidance should be an easy sell.

Here’s the video. See what you think.

The reality of Labour MP deselection campaigns

Labour MPs seem to be spending a lot of time talking about deselections at the moment. We are being told that Labour MPs who voted to bomb Syria will be ‘targeted’ for deselection by ‘entryists’ and the Corbyn leadership campaign spin-off group with a ‘The Apprentice’ team name – Momentum. Names that have been mentioned in connection with deselection include Chuka Umunna and Stella Creasy. But is there any substance behind these stories?

On Channel 4 News last night, Michael Crick thought he had uncovered a plot in Stella Creasy’s Walthamstow constituency. He had found a leaflet that had been distributed in the constituency inviting people to attend a meeting to discuss the deselection issue. Crick did what he is known for and turned up at the meeting, where he discovered a grand total of 12 people, 8 of the school kids. Here is the vid:

For all the noise around deselections, the truth is, the only evidence of people campaigning for them are a miniscule number of people outside the Labour Party who have no power to deselect anyone.

It would seem to me fairly clear that some Labour MPs dislike groups like Momentum because it will place more scrutiny on what they are doing. They particularly don’t like to be reminded that the decisions they make have real life consequences that they will bear some responsibility for.

Until the boundary review is concluded in 3 years time, no deselections can take place anyway. The noise around Momentum is simply a continuation of the strategy used during the Labour leadership campaign. Guilt by association and the smearing of – on the whole I would guess – young people newly enthused by politics for the first time who want to find a way to organise and help Labour win the next election. Labour MPs should be embracing these new members rather than viewing them with suspicion.