Friday, March 05, 2010

CamSham FlimFlamMan: When "NO" Means "YES, You're Absolutely Right"

Click the image above to launch full item VT in BBC Media Player
David Cameron's claim to have only discovered that Baron Ashcroft of Belize was still a non-dom and had not taken permanent residence, opting instead for the new "long term" fudge introduced in 2008 i.e. eight years after his commitment, followed hot on the heels of William Hague's assertion that he had only become aware of this in the past few months.

In fact, given what follows, it is probably just as well to check exactly what words this pair used. Both of them are politicians after all. And rather effective speakers of the weaselish.

Five days ago we tweeted that a certain old Andrew Marr interview with Dave Cameron should be dusted down. And yesterday as Cameron's extraordinary claim of baffling ignorance emerged we tweeted again and again, including links to our earlier blogposts - from 4 Dec 2007 and again 6 Dec 2007 and also 18 July 2009. Also the BBC Andrew Marr Programme transcript.

These links were picked up on Twitter by James Cowley who blogged this as "reassurances" and onwards to Political Scrapbook who did likewise. In fact, though, LOL believe that both of these Labour supporting bloggers are missing the significance of what Cameron and Marr did and did not say on that fateful day.

This appears to be a classic case of "NO" meaning "YES, indeedy". As we said at the time. Dave Cameron asserted that he'd had reassurances that Michael Ashcroft - now seven years and eight months after doing his contingent deal - was still girding up his loins and getting to it.

"The undertakings .. are being met .. I have had reassurances .." said Cameron. "Being met, but haven't been met", clarified Marr. "No" said Cameron, meaning yes "in terms of the reassurances that he is resident in the UK and pays taxes in the UK". So, to spell this out, again.

Cameron had had reassurances of present tense "being met" which as it goes have still not come to anything, except a grab at the new "long term" status. But Cameron agreed, using the weasel word "No" to Marr's point that he had not had reassurances that they'd been met. Paxman would have asked another question or two I guess. Though it was plain enough to me.

To be fair: "YES, they haven't been met" and "NO, they haven't been met" actually do mean the exact same thing. Whether bantering in both English or High Eton Weaselish.

This part of the exchange in full, as transcribed by the BBC, with their usual caveats about accuracy, was as follows:

  • ANDREW MARR: What about Lord Ashcroft? Because it was promised by the former party leader, William Hague, and indeed by Lord Ashcroft, way back, that he would be registered in this country, and a lot of people feel that he's not properly registered in that way. Are you absolutely happy and satisfied that he is in a position to be making the kind of funding commitment to your party that he is?
  • DAVID CAMERON: I am satisfied that the undertakings he gave are being met and I have had reassurances on that. But I would like to put it in context.
  • ANDREW MARR: Being met, but haven't been met.
  • DAVID CAMERON: No, in terms of the reassurances that he is resident in the UK and pays taxes in the UK. But the point, the point I would like to make, if you look at the last year actually Mittal and David Sainsbury have given more money to the Labour Party than Lord Ashcroft has given to the Conservative Party. So, I think people get his importance out of all, you know, relative significance.

  • You can listen and watch yourself by clicking top image (launches BBC media player), there'll be an inline video here soon I hope, and via the embedded video on this 2 Dec 2007 news page.

    Interesting that the story was that whacky Abrahams obfuscation story - eligible donor uses other eligible donors as agents and employs some legal trickery, subsequently discredited, to clear this - and Cameron's attempts to put the Trade Unions, collecting pennies from millions of workers, in the same bag as the likes of Ashcroft and indeed Sainsbury and Mittal.

    The Cameron admission that, even almost eight years on, Ashcroft was still stalling and hadn't become a permanent resident, didn't make the cut. Then as now people in the mass media don't speak the fly-by-night weasel too good.


    Constantly Furious said...

    It is quite possible that this is the dullest, least important story in the history of politics.

    Do you really think we should return Gordon Brown for another 5 glorious years, just because of what some bloke said to some bloke about some bloke?

    Is that the best the Labour party has to offer?

    Jimmy said...

    Chris, the problem as I see it is this: either his current status is consistent with the undertaking, or his undertaking was more onerous than that imposed on others and therefore unfair. As much fun as it is to point out the lack of honesty (or indeed intelligence)displayed by the tories in their handling of the issue I think there is no getting around this fundamental point.

    Of far more concern than the tax issue is the degree of influence he appears to wield and the question marks surrounding his business activities. His tax bill is the least of it.

    Anonymous said...
    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
    Chris Paul said...

    Look, Constantly Furious, it's not that dull, and it's not just some bloke and some other bloke. It's the leader of the opposition and it's the Vice Chair of the opposition and a huge donor. It's a man who was clearly NOT suitable for ennoblement getting ennobled ONLY because he agreed to fix the worst aspect of his unsuitability. He wasn't contributing anything so why the hell should he be made part of our legislature?

    Given a title he can swan around the world leveraging for his vulture deal making. He was desperate enough for that cashable title that he agreed to pay "tens of millions" of personal tax. And he completely went back on that deal.

    Three further LOOs also fell for this and defended the dissembling bastard. It's a hell of a story. And that's even before you look at Ashcroft's shabby reputation as a vulture, a banker to ne'er-do-wells, a serial interferer in sovereign politics, a power-buyer, and an all round Con.

    The fact Cameron and Hague are at it weaseling again suggests that the Tories know what a hell of a story this already is and how even more serious this could get.

    Cameron clearly knew in December 2007 that Ashcroft had not honoured his commitments. Has he FORGOTTEN?

    Chris Paul said...

    As for your point Jimmy, you're right of course, the influence is very important and mustn't be forgotten.

    But I don't agree about his being treated unfairly. Not a bit of it.

    The man had several nominations (nondominations?) or soundings out and was turned down as unsuitable. But he came back like the flim flameur he and his kind are and did a deal to overcome the appointments board's objections.

    My view is that he was never suitable and is not now suitable and that he shouldn't have got the peerage if he agreed to jump over the moon dressed as widow twankey on a bad hair day.

    This goes for others too, on all benches, but Ashcroft was clearly head and shoulders ahead of the others in his lack of contribution and his dodgy business models.

    I'd sack the lot of them tomorrow if it were up to me and the hereditories of all sides need to be disenfranchised like 60 years ago, 100 years ago, think of a number and double it.

    Ashcroft contracted to do certain things. As a direct and specific consideration for getting an honour he would not otherwise be entitled to or deserving of. And he has failed for exactly ten years now to honour his commitments. Still wouldn't have passed muster in my book. But he did manage to sell this dodgy deal to the people who made the decisions.

    This is a Tory tax promise that has been broken continuously for ten years and by four different LOOs.

    The judgement of the Tory Party leadership is what's on trial here. Apart from this horrible creepy little shit, his horrible creepy little shit mates, and his fucking around and meddling shit behaviour.

    Jimmy said...

    I understand the argument, but the fact is these objections, as you seem to concede, have nothing to do with his tax status. There are four non-dom peers and one of them takes the Labour whip. We can't credibly make an issue of this. And there are much bigger fish to fry:

    1. Belize: he is complaining about telecom nationalisation, specifically shares he previous. denied owning. He threatens to ask HMG to invoke the investment protection treaty. You think Hague's going to say no?

    2. Cuba: as McShane pointed out, UK bipartisan policy was not to visit Cuba unless given access to dissidents. Hague broke this and then called for US sanctions to be lifted. The suggestion that Ashcroft's commercial interests were not a factor is implausible.

    3. Turks and Caicos. Too many links to the ousted administration. He needs to come clean about his links to companies which dealt with them. Someone in his position can't claim privacy. This is not a abstract issue. Corruption in this case undoubtedly has killed people.

    He now appears to up to something in Trininad. Perhaps a bolthole if Belize kicks him out?

    Next to all this honestly I don't give a shit about his tax return. He has to go and I think when this all comes out Hague goes too.

    tory boys never grow up said...

    I think its quite important that if someone buys significant influence over one of our major political parties (he is their Vice Chairman and has an office in CCHQ, and does appear to have quite an influence on the shadow Foreign Secretary's priorities and travel itinerary) they should at least pay their whack when it comes to taxation.

    It perhaps should also be remembered that Ashcroft started making loans to political parties well before the Labour Party started accepting them.

    Ashcroft is also not above using his money to get involved in the politics of other sovereign countries. But at least his funding of Misick in T&C now appears to be getting the publicity it deserves - nice to see the Guardian catching up at last this weekend (perhaps they should read this blog) - but they do appear to have missed the additional loan direct from an another Ashcroft company in addition to that from Belize Bank and that Hague met with Misick on one of his Ashcroft sponsored jaunts.

    One point that needs to be understood in this whole discussion about tax is that it is not just domicile that determines tax liabilities. Being non domiciled means that you are only taxed on overseas source income and capital gains that are remitted or transferred to the UK. What is perhaps more important is whether the individual concerned is "resident" or "ordinarily resident". This is the terminology HMRC and tax professionals used - other terms such as "permanent resident" or "long term resident" are not as important - and if you see them being used when discussing tax liabilities you should smell a rat. Most of us are classified as "resident and ordinarily resident" and we have to pay the full whack of tax on our earnings. What I suspect those who are trying to avoid UK tax are trying to achieve is to be "resident but not ordinarily resident" which then means if you can attribute some of your earnings to overseas activities then they are not subject to UK taxation - this is often a far more considerable benefit than being a "non - dom".

    If you want to become "not ordinarily" resident you should not be on the electoral register as would appear to be the case with Ashcroft (but not Mrs Ashcroft) - but most if not all of the Labour non doms are on the electoral register and have given donations in their own name. If you look at the precise wording of what Ashcoft and Cameron are saying - they appear to leave the door open for Ashcroft being "not ordinarily resident".

    So here is a specific question to Mr Cameron - would you bring forward a law requiring all members of the House of Lords to be "resident and ordinarily resident" for tax purposes?? - rather than just "resident" per the current promise.

    I also noted CCHQ's comments about the polling referred to in Ashcroft's book being nothing to do with them or words to that effect. There are a lot of indicators around that the Tories do not believe that quite a lot of expenditure undertaken locally in support of their candidates does not count to the National Campaign Expenditure limits (which should include all expenditure in support of the Conservative Party in the 12 month periods prior to the General and European elections - and includes expenditure undertaken by or on behalf of CCHQ or all its local associations). One wonders whether Ashcroft's private polling or other constituency spending is being systematically excluded from the National Campaign totals? It is worth noting that in the 2005 election the National Campaign returns said that LAbour and the Tories spent about the same on posters - yet all the anectdotal evidence and Campaign magazine pointed to the Tories outspending Labour by a large factor. Perhaps this is something that the Electoral Commission should be looking at PDQ.

    isle of man mansions said...

    Maybe he is off to Belize?

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