Friday, April 06, 2012

Publishing candidates' tax returns will diminish our politics

"Why don't we end this by everybody just publishing what they earn and then what they pay in tax?" suggested Jenny Jones. And they have.

BBC News reports:
In the 2010-11 tax year, Conservative Mr Johnson paid £210,410 income tax on an income of £473,280. 
Labour's Mr Livingstone paid £22,691 tax on an income of £94,568. He also paid £11,970 in corporation tax. 
Liberal Democrat Mr Paddick paid £14,534 in tax on an income of £76,804. 
And Green Party candidate Ms Jones paid £15,577 in income tax on an income of £63,028.
I cannot summon up any enthusiasm for the practice of candidates publishing their tax returns.

Yes, it's amusing to see that Ken "no one should be allowed to vote in a British election, let alone sit in Parliament, unless they pay their full share of tax" Livingstone is a sharper operator than Boris Johnson. But the problems with his candidacy go deeper than that.

I suggested four years ago I said:
I suspect that a widespread feeling that he had outstayed his welcome was one of the reasons for Ken Livingstone's defeat this time.
And he still won't go away. As to why: blame the mayoral system itself.

What requiring candidates to publish these returns - now a precedent has been set I imagine it will soon become impossible for anyone to avoid doing it - will do is further narrow the pool of people who can become political candidates.

If you have are self-employed or have set up a business, you will be vulnerable to accusations that you have not paid enough tax. But if you have gone to university and then worked for one of the main parties at Westminster and then been parachuted into a safe seat, you tax returns will be impeccable.

But we have too many people like that in the Commons already.

We Liberal Democrats don't have such things as safe seats, but the argument I made last year is still valid:
We should not be asking people to vote for us because we are better people or because we work harder than the other parties. We should be asking them to vote for us because we have good judgement and a convincing set of solutions to the problems the country faces.
I'm sorry to quote so many of my old posts, but if I don't do it, who will?


Senior said...

Cleaning up politics was a theme of the Liberal Democrats 2010 general election campaign. Politicians publishing their tax returns is part of that process. I am not convinced that politicians who always pay as much tax as they’re supposed to will be disadvantaged by the publication of their tax returns.

Jennie Rigg said...

I dunno, I think publishing tax returns necessarily means publishing income data; while it might put off wealthy people from running, it will also make it clear to the electorate exactly how wealthy you have to be to consider running in the first place, and that might do some good.

But yeah, it's a bit weird.

Boris's income is less than I thought it would be; Brian's is more. It's good to have stereotypes punctured.