Der Spiegel online and Le Monde whenever I can find it in a shop (easier in Romania than in Bulgaria) by virtue of the latter’s thin, sensuous paper (I deeply regret the disappearance of its copious footnotes!). Yesterday The Guardian invited me to take part in a survey – I suspect to explore the commercial possibilities of erecting a paywall to protect some of its content. I was, however, happy to participate in the survey since I have become increasingly disillusioned with the superficial (if not biased) nature of some of this famous liberal paper’s recent drift and wanted a chance to say something about my misgivings. I recognise the glorious role the paper had played in unmasking the machinations and manipulations of the Murdoch Empire’s media empire but, for my money, it has played a most curious (and unacceptable) role of "the establishment" in the Julian Assange affair.
In filling out the questionnaire I duly took the chance to sound off about this – and also about the overly New Labourist views of correspondents it uses such as Polly Toynbee.
But, after the article she has published today, I take that back and offer my apologies. Her article gives great coverage to a long-overdue attack on the criminal role of International Financial Consultancies in government
Westminster is rarely a palace of pleasure, but Thursday brought the magnificent spectacle of Margaret Hodge walloping the big four accountancy firms for their role in helping companies deprive the Treasury of taxes everyone else has to pay. Four heads of tax – at PWC, Ernst & Young, Deloitte and KPMG – wriggled and obfuscated, hiding behind the polite euphemisms of their trade. Never say avoidance or, God forbid, evasion – but call it "tax planning" and "tax efficiency".And I now see that it was an article of Polly Toynbee's that I extensively quoted from in one of my posts about the Murdoch Empire last year. I think I've absorbed too many of the wisecracks on Craig Murray's (otherwise admirable) website about "The Guardian" newspaper!!
As she came at them from all sides, Hodge and the astute MPs on her public accounts committee ripped off the accountants' veil of respectability. She waved a monstrous map showing the tax avoidance device one of the four had created for a company operating with circles of subsidiaries sited in off-shore havens: "That stinks!" she said. Yet there the four sat piously deploring "complexity" in a tax system that keeps adding volumes to the code just to chase down their devilish loopholes.
When the burglar is unscrewing your window locks, would you pay him a fat fee to clean your windows while he's at it? Yet that's what the government does. Last year these four firms said they earned some £400m from the state, and they help to denude this same state of the tax that pays them. But far worse, the government has invited the burglar in to be consulted on the best kind of locks for the future. Now the old lag is in the pub selling the pin code to the locks to all his burglar friends.