Tag Archives: tax dodgers

#OccupyLSX, right wing smears and the tax-dodging Barclay Brothers

I’ve never credited Britain’s right-wing commentators with much intelligence. They have the best education that money can buy and yet they’re still as thick as two short planks. If they aren’t thinking straight, then they’re making wilfully ignorant comments. Since OccupyLSX began outside St Paul’s Cathedral, the right has been desperately trying to second guess the movement. All attempts to do so have foundered.  As a result, the organs of the right have retreated to their default position: smear the protesters.

In the last few days, the Daily Telegraph (a paper run by a pair of tax-dodging brothers who also own the small island of Brecqhou near Sark in the Channel Islands) has done its utmost to ensure the public (or at the least, the right wing fraction of the public) is made fully aware of what these people are getting up to… or so it thinks.

Tuesday, this blog appeared from David Hughes. In it, he regurgitates a smear story printed the same day in the Telegraph.

They’ve been rumbled. It turns out that the Occupy London Stock Exchange (OccupyLSX) protesters who have settled in St Paul’s Churchyard are not only not occupying the Stock Exchange – they are not even occupying their own tents. Our enterprising news reporters were there in the small hours with a thermal imaging camera and discovered that most of the tents were empty. The report and video are here. You can hardly blame the demonstrators for preferring a snug bed at home to a chilly night on paving slabs. But their empty tent policy raises an important question. Decades of terrorist threats  have made most people in this country – and particularly in the capital – hyper-sensitive to the sight of a bag or suitcase left unattended. It’s normally only a matter of minutes before such items are whisked away by the police. So how come so many tents have been allowed to sit in the heart of London for so long without being removed, particularly now that we know that most are unoccupied?

So, it’s fine to invade people’s privacy for the sake of a smear story? This joker seems to think so. Let’s have a look at the ‘story’.

The camp forced St Paul’s to close for the first time since the Blitz and is costing local businesses thousands of pounds a day.

But footage shot by The Daily Telegraph on a thermal imaging camera appeared to show most of the dozens of tents in the cathedral churchyard were empty. And when the remaining protesters realised what The Telegraph was attempting to verify this, the mood turned ugly.

The site was quiet at around 12.30am with the faint smell of marijuana smoke in the air. A handful of police officers stood back on the fringes of the encampment.

First the authors of this piece repeat the same spiel about St Paul’s having to close for the first time since the Blitz. Notice how the word “Blitz” is used to evoke an image in the popular mind. But this image is connected to a particular memory of WWII. It was one that was evoked by Thatcher – much to her cost. One abiding image of the cathedral is often used to evoke this memory of the “Spirit of the Blitz” with this defiant building standing up to the Luftwaffe’s bombs when others could not.

Interestingly enough, although the cathedral’s dean told reporters that it had closed, it still went ahead with a planned wedding. Most historic buildings, if they have to charge anything at all for admission, will ask visitors to pay a small, often voluntary, charge. But, as we can see from St Pauls’ website, the charges are rather steep and it would interesting to find out exactly how many tourists visit the cathedral each week. When the charges were introduced, there was a public outcry. Yet, for some odd reason, this has been conveniently overlooked by the right wing press in order to make sure their smears stick. What this also shows us is how the Anglican Church is consumed with the same corporate greed as its neighbours. On this site, an American tourist complains that,

 …this church has the audacity to charge £13.50 for a student ticket is simply ridiculous, especially considering how well-endowed the Anglican Church is. Cologne, Florence, Ravenna; nearly any cathedral on the continent can surpass what St. Paul’s offers, and without sucking your wallet dry at that.

This tourist is not alone either. Theo Hobson,  in The Guardian’s Comment is Free wrote last year,

My reluctance to pay is not really a matter of meanness, but of principle. By excluding people, especially young people who are often time-rich but money-poor, and spiritually curious, the C of E is edging them away from a sense that England’s religious heritage is theirs – that it is not just for tourists, and not just for worshippers at actual services; it is also theirs to browse. And there’s another point: paying an entrance fee changes the nature of the visit. To pay is to make a tacit statement: that this is primarily a tourist-attraction, that its sacred function is secondary to this. Perhaps a little meanness is also involved, I admit.

William Oddie in the Catholic Herald wrote,

I have had this problem before, getting into Anglican cathedrals built by the Catholic Church and purloined at the Reformation. They have no right to stop you (or anyone else) entering: simply refuse politely and go in. I know that buildings like this need maintaining. But I would almost certainly pay more than the entrance fee as a voluntary contribution, and I usually do. A notice suggesting a voluntary contribution, even specifying a recommended sum and with a desk there to collect the money (they could hand out a free guide or something to encourage people to give) would avoid this appalling and deeply secular tourist entrance fee.

Back to the article, the authors claim that there was a ” faint smell of marijuana smoke in the air”. This is a way of painting the occupiers as “unwashed hippies” and has a resonance with the right’s response to the protests of the 1960’s and 1970’s. It panders to the deeply-held prejudices of the ruling classes and their unwitting allies, who tell us that they “never protest”. The reason for that it is obvious: they hold the whip but tell them that and they’ll reply with gobbledigook.  They also tell us that when the Torygraph snoopers started filming that the the “mood turned ugly”. The reason they say this is to insert a particular image in the public mind of an “enemy within” that needs to be vanquished by the police.

The Guardian (equated by Torygraph readers with Pravda) was more sympathetic to the occupiers,

“OccupyLSX was surprised to hear the Telegraph and others reporting this morning that 90% of our tents are empty overnight,” the group said in a statement.

“This is simply not the case. While it is quite possible that not every tent is occupied every night, we try to keep vacancy to a minimum and operate a sign-in/sign-out system to help ensure this happens. The camp attracts thousands of people every day. We do not expect all the people who are expressed through this movement to be able to stay overnight.”

The Guardian also adds that,

Reports quoting the 10% occupancy rate appeared in the Times,TelegraphSun, and Daily Mail on Tuesday, apparently based on evidence gathered by a police helicopter equipped with thermal imaging cameras.

However, City of London police told the Guardian that they could not confirm nor deny the reports, saying only that neither details of the thermal imaging cameras nor the occupancy estimates had come from them.

The right wing press’s position is beginning to look threadbare. So far, all they have is a handful of smears and a cupful of baseless allegations.

This blogger alleges that St Paul’s Cathedral is effectively run by former Ye Olde Cittie of London bankers and a former City of London Mayor. Even if it isn’t the case, some readers will know that the City of London Corporation is run like a private fiefdom. I am tempted to say that this is the last vestige of feudalism in Britain but that would be inaccurate. It is, in effect, the last of the Rotten Boroughs as this blogger points out.

LM cultist and smear artist, Brendan O’Neill chimes in with this poorly-considered blog.  He refers to the occupation as a “warped class war”. This, coming from a man whose own ‘libertarian’ ideas are questionable.

Occupy London does not speak for the 99 per cent or for the working man – on the contrary, it is more an expression of slacker disdain and organic-fuelled fury for the ethos of the ambitious working man

And praytell, how is that, Brendan? He doesn’t explain. Why? Because he’s only interested in twisting reality to conform to his warped ideas of the protests. He panders to his authoritarian readership. Scratch a right libertarian and you will always find a rabid authoritarian and neoliberal shill underneath.

Today Damian Thompson and Hon Tobes both wade in with a smear of the occupiers and Dr Giles Fraser, the canon chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral, who resigned from his post in protest at his bishop’s pandering to pressure to the Cittie parasites who practically run the cathedral. Hon Tobes’ piece is the more dishonest of the two. He claims that Fraser has cost the cathedral “hundreds of thousands of pound in lost revenue”, wilfully ignoring the fact that the admission price alone has been responsible for the decline in numbers visiting the place. The helmet-headed one opines,

Those traditional Anglicans who oppose gay marriage are “narrow-minded puritans seeking to impose their joyless and claustrophobic world-view on the rest of the church“. On it goes – no opportunity for Giles Fraser to air his Left-wing views in the media is ever neglected.

Of course, anyone who disagrees or does not share Hon Tobes’ world view is an “loony lefty”. It’s so pathetically easy, it hurts.

The proprietors of the Telegraph Group are the mysterious Barclay Brothers, who have recently bought Claridges and run their island of Brecqhou like feudal lords. But the tax free status of the Channel Islands isn’t enough for them and they have also claimed residency in tax-free Monaco. Er, come again?

The Barclay brothers own a big chunk of the media, including The Spectator magazine and The Telegraph Group.

Although they are considered philanthropists, having donated over £40 million to medical research, they are also tax exiles. The savings from not paying tax in the UK but Monaco, should more than cover that, and leave enough small change over to pay for a Channel island.

The Brothers own two very influential right wing organs, both of which are pledged to defend and apologise for excesses of casino capitalism.  Therefore it’s fitting that they live in Monaco, the home of high-rollers and tax-dodging self-exiles.

The entrepreneurial siblings may hide themselves away in the Quinlan Terry designed, battlement surrounded, three feet deep walls of the Brecqhou mansion, but they give their address as 7 Avenue de Grande Bretagne, 98000 Monaco.

Avenue de Grande Bretagne, how cute… I’ll bet that makes them feel at home.

UPDATE @ 18.30

Just caught the end of a  BBC News item on Giles Fraser and #OccupyLSX, which the reporter described as a “siege”.

This is a siege.

This is not.

The Guardian have an interview with Dr Fraser here. Apparently St Paul’s is reopening its doors thereby leaving it open to the charge of flip-flopping.

UPDATE: 29/10/11 @ 1807

You know that story in The Telegraph that claimed to use thermal imaging cameras to determine if people were sleeping in the tents at the #OccupyLSX camp at St Paul’s Cathedral? It turns out that you can’t tell if someone is in a tent or not by using thermal imaging. I don’t think the Torygraph will apologise for this blatant lie though. That’s a bit like expecting the Tories to be compassionate.

Here’s the video.

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Filed under History & Memory, Media, Tory press, Yellow journalism

Life on Hannan World (Part 1)

Hannan: he's being oppressed by the poor

If you didn’t laugh at the antics of the uberprivileged, you’d cry. The cuts in public spending will not affect the rich or those who earn 6 figure salaries but to hear them talk, one would think that the poor and the low-waged were about to burn down their homes.

Today, Desperate Dan Hannan launches a snide attack on Mark Serwotka, the general secretary of the PCS union. He describes Serotwa’s article as a “harangue”…and he has the brass neck to say that I don’t understand how to use the word “fulsome”?  Unintentionally funny or what?

It’s reasonable enough, I suppose, for trade unions to campaign against specific cuts that affect their members. But surely they can see the need for some reductions. The government borrowed 30 per cent more last month than the wastrel Gordon Brown did the previous November; more, indeed, than in any month since the National Debt was instituted in 1694 under William III.

A couple of things. First, a coherent argument for cuts hasn’t been made. Instead, we have been treated to the hoary old cliché that “We’re all in this together” when clearly that is a lie.  Second, Hannan talks about the national debt as though it was the fault of all those awful poor, low-waged and unemployed people. Hannan, like so many of his ilk, won’t do the decent thing and tell you where the current national debt comes from and how old it is. Instead, he and his fellow travellers want us to believe that the budget (structural) deficit and the national debt are one and the same thing. They are not.

Anyway, here’s what Serwotka said.

The cuts won’t affect Desperate Dan or the 22 millionaires in the Tory-led government. Well, they may have to forego foie gras once a week but, hey, it’s no big deal. We’re all in this together. Right?

Hannan finishes with this

So far, private sector employees have seen a greater drop in their incomes than government workers. Yet it’s private sector workers who generate the revenue with which the state employs Mr Serwotka’s members. Such lopsidedness, I’m afraid, is not sustainable.

What Hannan forgets is that private sector workers aren’t as unionized as those in the public sector. The reason for that is fairly obvious. In Hannan World, trade unions are a monstrous evil that must be excised from the body-politic like a tumour.

Here’s a the Taxpayer Alliance (already exposed as a Tory front group) that Desperate Dan posted on his blog.

Taxpayers Alliance? More like Taxdodgers Alliance.

Here’s a comment from someone calling themselves technotrader

Striking should be outlawed in the public sector and in any private enterprise that constitutes part of the key infrastructure – such as power stations, airports, airlines. 

There should be no such thing as a “right to strike” which materially impacts my right to go about my daily business. Nor should there be a right to withdraw a public service that I am required by law to pay for.

But I am happy to allow striking in the rest of the private sector because the free market will regulate it: if I cannot buy your widgets because your workers are on strike then I will buy them from your competitor.

Unfortunately we cannot eliminate all monopolies – there can only be one London Underground – so the “right to strike” rather than being an absolutist principle as the Left believe should take into account the type of enterprise concerned.

Yeah, we know, you don’t ‘do’ human rights.

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Toby Young attacks UK Uncut

Toby Young hates protesters. Especially if those protesters contradict his romanticized view of classical liberalism. At Nowhere Towers we believe he’s a right-whinging libertarian gobshite.  He doesn’t stop but, more importantly, his thinking is wobbly. The Hon Tobes declares that “UK Uncut hurts ordinary shoppers, not rich corporations”. In this blog, as in some many of his blogs, he misses the point by a country mile.  Today Hon Tobes has taken it upon himself to act as the Xmas shopper’s champion while acting as a shill for consumerism

Has there ever been a more ham-fisted protest movement than UK Uncut? The express purpose of this organisation is to force rich individuals and corporations to pay more tax. Whatever the merits of the case – and, obviously, I think taxes should be lowered for everybody, not raised for anyone – it’s hard to see how interfering with ordinary shoppers is going to advance the movement’s cause. UK Uncut’s method of protest is to stage sit-ins inside shops like Vodafone and Top Shop, making it harder to shop there, and today has been earmarked a “Pay Day”, with flash mobs appearing in shopping centres and on busy high streets up and down the country.

That’s the whole point, you fucking dimwit. And you went to Oxford? It isn’t actually clear whether or not he defends the right of Sir Philip Green to avoid tax by putting his company in his Monaco-residing wife’s name. This is the blog of a middle-aged, middle class bloke who, if he wasn’t writing for the Torygraph, would be writing to his local paper every week about those horrid ‘migrants’ and ‘asylum seekers’. He whines,

What makes the movement so objectionable is that the main victims of this form of protest are the people trying to buy Christmas presents for their loved ones, not the corporations that own these shops

What makes Young’s blog so objectionable is the wilful ignorance that he lays on by the bucketload,

Even if this method of protest was successful and Vodafone and Top Shop ended up paying more tax, it wouldn’t be ordinary people that would benefit. On the contrary, the higher taxes would immediately be passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices. How, precisely, is that going to help “the poorest and most vulnerable”?

I don’t think I buy that argument. It looks like a poorly-reasoned apology. This isn’t a day out to Clacton, Tobes, this protest is to raise awareness of  the extent to which major British companies avoid paying tax.  Tobes has fallen back on the tactic of the cheap emotional blackmailer. “If you don’t behave and be a good consumer, the prices will go up”!

The final paragraph is vintage Tobes,

If the organisers of the UK Uncut movement really want to help the most needy at this time of year, why don’t they patrol the streets of their home towns giving food and blankets to the homeless? That way, the rest of us can get on with our Christmas shopping without being screamed at by a bunch of red-faced students.

In this paragraph he assumes that the UK Uncut protesters are all students. They aren’t, but Tobes doesn’t bother to do his homework. As far as he is concerned all protesters are ungrateful, selfish, misguided student lefties who don’t wash, smoke loads of pot and sit around all day watching Jeremy Kyle when they aren’t rampaging through the streets and making shoppers aware of hypocrisy of the government’s ‘Efficiency Czar’.  Who, incidentally, while advising the government on reducing waste, avoids paying tax  in this country because of a convenient loophole (the same ones that are used by the 22 millionaires in this government).

Reading the blog I get the feeling that he tried to get into his local Vodaphone shop but couldn’t because of the protesters. There seems to be no other reason for it.

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Osborne: benefit ‘cheats’ are mugging you

Trust Hon Gid to come out with a phrase like “benefit cheats are muggers”. Such is the intellectual and philosophical vacuum at the heart of the Conservative party that they have to equate ‘welfare cheats’ with violent crime. With a penchant for histrionics, Gid let fly on Sky News,

“You’re leaving the house at seven in the morning or whatever to go to work and paying your taxes – and then the person down the street is defrauding the welfare system.

“This money is paid through our taxes which is meant to be going to the most vulnerable in our society, not into the pockets of criminals.”

Yet while Osborne talked of going after ‘benefit cheats’ his government has practically granted immunity to millionaire tax cheats.  Sir Philip Green, the chairman of the Arcadia group that owns Top Shop was hired by the government as its waste czar. But Green is a massive tax dodger as this Observer article from 2005 says,

The business empire of retail billionaire Philip Green is mostly held in the name of his wife, Tina, who is resident in Monaco. Taveta Investments, the vehicle used to acquire Arcadia in 2002, paid out a hefty £460m to its owner last year. Green, who spends much of his time in Britain, would have been landed with a £150m tax bill if he owned Taveta; as it is held by his wife, a minuscule amount of tax is due.

When pressed, the government has said that it intends to pursue tax cheats but something tells me that they’re not telling the truth: many of these tax cheats donate generously to the Tory Party. Lord Ashcroft, for example, has avoided paying tax for years and will no doubt continue to do so. He also has the country of Belize in his back pocket.  The Tories are hardly likely to bite the hand that feeds, they are more likely to depict the most vulnerable as being capable of acts of extreme fiscal violence.

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