I’ve seen the phrase “play the ball, not the man” repeatedly over the last few weeks. Invariably it has come from people who spend their free time penning character assassinations of politicians they don’t like. Hypocrites, in other words. I have very little time for them, but it raises an important point. I do, personally, believe that going after politicians friends and families is wrong. In this case, however, the criticism rests squarely on Rishi Sunak and his decisions. It is his decisions that have penalised the vast majority of households, whilst leaving rules in place that allow his loved ones (and his own household) to benefit.
If he cannot see the massive conflict of interest, then he has no business in government. And that is the problem. No one is calling for Akshata Murty to resign. His critics want him gone because he has caused over the biggest cost of living crisis in modern history whilst protecting his family. The man is out of touch.
Let’s recap on exactly what has happened
This week it came to light that Rishi Sunak’s wife, Akshata Murty, is claiming non-Domiciled status in the UK. She is able to do this because she has Indian citizenship and is claiming that the UK is not her permanent home. The result is that, despite living full time in the UK, she does not have to pay UK income tax on anything “earned abroad”. This includes dividend payments, which appears to be her primary source of income. She earns about £11.5m a year in dividends, and doesn’t pay a penny of tax in the UK on the sum.
But why is this relevant to Rishi Sunak? Well for a few reasons.
Rishi Sunak has just broken a manifesto promise not to raise National Insurance
Rishi Sunak has a lot of options at his disposal when it comes to balancing the books. He could have delayed cancelling the bank tax. He could have increased public borrowing. Or, he could have closed tax avoidance loopholes such as allowing non-domiciled status for people clearly residing full time in the UK.
Instead, he chose to break a manifesto promise and raise a tax that affects the vast majority of the working population. Coincidentally this is a tax that will have virtually no impact on his household income. Does he really expect us to believe that he is acting in the national interest when his decisions so brazenly affect everyone but him?
As a side note, prevailing economic wisdom said raising any taxes was a terrible idea. The only conceivable reason to do this is to build up a war chest that will allow him to lower taxes in the run up to a General Election. Playing party politics with the countries finances at the time when people are freezing to death. Not a good look for a pampered billionaire.
Failed to declare a conflict of interest
On top of the terrible optics that something like this has, there is a potentially more material issue. He did not properly declare this as a conflict of interest. Even if his decisions have been completely grounded in the National Interest, failing to make his personal circumstances clear is grounds for dismissal. He has made a decision that will negatively impact virtually the entire country. Some people may even be pushed underwater as a result. Yet at no point has he been honest with the country that his household will not carry the weight of his decisions. If you or I did this at work we’d be sacked immediately and probably face Bribery and Corruption charges.
Now is when the usual columnists come in to say “so people married to non-dom’s shouldn’t be allowed in office”. No, I am not saying that. I am saying that if a Chancellor is married to a non-dom and feels that breaking a manifesto pledge is the only option, then he must be 100% transparent. This should include an explanation of the impact on him. An explanation on why he feels that this is fair. Why he does not feel it is appropriate to close a tax avoidance loophole his family personally benefits from. Finally, I’d expect an offer to allow a committee to examine the decision and his rationale.
The Chancellor seems to think it is OK to play poker with the countries finances without declaring a personal interests. When he gets called out he thinks an appropriate response is to sulk and winge about how unfair it is.
He tried to deflect the criticism by making it about his wife
There is only one person who is making this “political attack” about his wife. Rishi Sunak.
Very few people are criticising his wife’s actions. She is not in elected office. Virtually everyone is criticising the fact that:
- Rishi Sunak has raised the tax burden to the highest ever level
- In a way that hardly affects his household income
- And did so without declaring the obvious conflict of interest
Show me where, in that line of reasoning, there is an attack on his wife? Now personally, I think non-dom status is a disgrace. But the fault lies with the Chancellor for allowing it. So here’s a statement from me direct to the Chancellor:
Rather than whining about how hard done by you are, say sorry. Apologise for creating the worst cost of living crisis in living memory. And for raising taxes on people whilst sheltering your own household. Say sorry to your wife for thrusting her into the headline. Take some f**king accountability for once in your life. Then do us all a favour and resign.