Dear Chief Secretary to the Treasury,
I'm afraid to tell you there's no money left.
Signed, Liam Byrne

(Outgoing Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury. May 2010)

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Lord Ashcroft

Mrs Rigby has already blown a gasket over at Mr Dale's place, which was probably a bit silly, but she's getting heartily sick of 'decent people' being done over by those who try to hide their own misdemeanours behind weasel words. There's no point in her trying, personally, to compare Lord Ashcroft with other peers, because other people can do it extremely well. Guido, for instance, has a thing, or two, or three to say.

It wasn't until Mrs R saw the comment on Iain Dale's place that compared putting together a collection of Victoria Crosses with 'collecting butterflies' that she got cross. Getting cross about something is all relative, and is to do with knowing or understanding what's going on, and she couldn't really see why there was such a fuss about this non-dom stuff, mainly because it would never be likely to affect her and hers, not in a zillion years, so it washed right over her head.

But Mrs Rigby rather likes butterflies you see, and doesn't like to think of people sticking pins in them, especially not rare British ones, and she shuddered at the concept of likening that 'hobby' to collecting the VCs which are ...
the highest military decoration which is, or has been, awarded for valour "in the face of the enemy" to members of the armed forces of various Commonwealth countries, and previous British Empire territories.
... and which only tend to end up being sold if the family who owns one is rather desperate for money.

Mrs R has a bit of a soft spot for medals, she has a few that belonged to her forebears and, even though they are fairly ordinary, she can't imagine ever parting with them.

The Victoria Cross is so precious, so personal, each one has a story that could rarely be retold by the recipient because they died not knowing they had done something "For Valour", something that saved other people's lives. That very special medal was often the only precious  thing their family ever had - imagine reaching the decision to sell it, and imagine having enough money to be able to buy one, and then be able to buy some more. No, Mrs R can't imagine  either scenario, not really. Don't, please, imagine that she's jealous, because she isn't.

Anyhow, she decided to find out more about Lord Ashcroft, who, to be honest, up to that point had been just a name. She was very surprised by what she learned.

He was born in Belize, his father was working there, which is probably a good reason to carry on living there for part, or all, of the year. He's a pretty astute businessman too, and often has a bit of spare cash lying around so he thinks of interesting ways to spend it - and he doesn't spend it all on champagne, fancy yachts and high living.

In 1988 Michael Ashcroft founded Crimestoppers. He did that following the murder of PC Keith Blakelock in London in 1985, and was instrumental in launching a similar organisation in New Zealand, also called Crimestoppers, following his donation of £120k for the return of stolen New Zealand [Victoria Crosses]. See the link between the two things - giving scared people the chance to do the decent thing, even anonymously - that's brave, it takes courage.

He gave £5million to Anglia Ruskin University, towards building the Business School, as well as funding scholarships there for students from Belize. Nine scholarships, not just the one.

He founded Ashcroft Technology Academy in Wandsworth and he's done 'green' things too,  trying to save whales.

He has funded many events for Help for Heroes, all the proceeds from some books he's written about soldierly things go to that charity too.

He has also bought many, many, of the aforementioned Victoria Crosses so a trust was established to protect the collection. The medals are now 'on loan' to the Imperial War Museum, which also received a donation of £5million to pay for the gallery in which they are displayed.

It's a heck of a lot to do for Britain, and for British people. You'd think any one of them would go down quite well. All that money, his money, none of these things has taken a bean from the taxpayer. In fact he probably saved the taxpayer quite a bit, and did things the government wouldn't ever have imagined doing with public money, and that's why Mrs Rigby got wordy in the early hours of the morning, and defended him - and butterflies.

You know, quite a lot of people do a lot of good things, they don't actually ask for anything in return. Many of them give time, because that's all they have to spare, but some people have spare cash, a lot of spare cash, and they do decent things with it. The proper term for these people is philanthropists, there were an awful lot of philanthropists around in Victorian times. (More about those pesky Victorians another time.) The only other alive person Mrs R has heard of who's personally funded a school is Sir John Robert Madejski (knighted 2009). He also built a new football stadium in Reading, and bought the football club to go in it - and that's why she knows his name, because she spotted the name of the football stadium in a headline and looked it up to try to find out how to pronounce it. If Mrs Rigby ever had a lot of money she'd pay for a lifeboat, and see if they'd name it after one of her forebears who had a bit of bother in WW1 and never managed to walk properly again, not without a pair of walking sticks - but it's not likely to happen, although it's quite a nice dream.

And that's it really, nothing much more to say, except that Mrs R now understands that all this fuss is about some of Lord Ashcroft's money not ending up where some people think it should. It seems that 'non-doms' register that their 'domicile' is not Britain, so pay some (or all) of their income tax somewhere else in the world and because they earn a lot they pay a lot of tax, so the government thinks it's missing out, it's not fair, especially when they realise they could have 50% of Lord Ashcroft's earnings. And they've had a seriously hissy fit in his case because he also gave some money to the Tory Party, which they don't think is fair, and he's their Deputy Chairman, and he's rich, whilst Labour has got Harriet Harman for their Deputy, and she gets wages from the taxpayer, and some expenses or two, so can't give them anything, not even money from her relatives. Maybe he also gave the Tories more than anybody except the Unions (via the membership subscription  levy) have given Labour, which makes them doubly jealous? The thing is that he does pay tax here though, because everything he buys whilst in Britain generates at least 17.5% VAT - Mrs R can't imagine he gets many things from charity shops.

Oh, an aside, about 'domicile'.

Did you know that if you make a Will you live in England or Wales and then move to Scotland, your Will is automatically invalid if you don't tell a lawyer your 'place of domicile' is England  or Wales - otherwise Scottish law takes over and can rule you intestate.

Back to Lord Ashcroft, and some very common sense from Dizzy
If I have a job in the UK I pay tax here. If I have a job in Spain but I commute from the UK, I should pay tax in Spain because that is where I earned the money. This idea that if you earn money abroad, but spend it somewhere else, you should be taxed where you spend it seems to me absurd. Now, I realise some might find this a terrible thought, but it just seems like common sense to me.
There is more, please read the original post.

The last words on this matter should, on this blog at least, perhaps come from the BBC's Nick Robinson :
It is unpatriotic - the home secretary claimed - for the Tories to take so much money from a man who chooses not to be a full British taxpayer.
If so, all three of the UK's major parties are unpatriotic because they have all taken major sums from so-called "non-doms"

It is wrong, many say, and, indeed, it will soon be illegal to sit in Parliament making laws in Britain whilst avoiding paying taxes here.

If so, Lord Ashcroft is not the only one doing so. Lord Paul - a Labour donor - is also a "non-dom" and Gordon Brown promoted him to the Privy Council.


Witterings From Witney said...

When you have a rant Mrs. R (or should that be rantess in true pc?) you do it with great style!

Well said!

Mrs Rigby said...

I try!

Some people say I'm very trying!