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A big responsibility

Being a bit hazy on time things, I cannot quite recall how long I’ve been writing my occasional pieces for the Rust but I am much heartened by how at last Britain’s politicians are beginning to appreciate the wisdom of my musings. Having recognised this phenomenon, I am of course also conscious of ‘the pen being mightier than the sword’ and my journo’s responsibility to be wary of how I use my influence.

Let us just examine two examples that have occurred within the past week:

THE EU REFERENDUM AND SCOTLAND

Having, after careful consideration, nailed my colours to the mast of being in favour of a ‘NO’ to EU membership – in other words, I am in favour of Brexit – I scarcely need to expand upon my reasons. As a British voter/punter, I am instinctively agin the EU project (particularly the move towards some sort of ‘union’ which seems to preoccupy the unaccountable EU Commission and all those who sail with her).

My position on this has nothing to do with economic factors – I don’t give a row of beans about them, frankly, even if it should turn out that the scaremongers within the EU and the British Establishment are ultimately proved correct – I just want the UK to be free to run its own affairs without being dictated to by an organisation comprising 27 (or is it 28?) other countries, most of whom have zilch in common with each other, especially when to all intents and purposes their ‘controlling executive’ has de facto consigned the fundamental principle of democracy to history.

And … er … that’s it, basically.

blairIn this context, the fact that the Great Pariah of British politics, Tony Blair, has now gone public with a warning that a Brexit vote would greatly enhance the risk that Scotland would vote to leave the United Kingdom adds huge weight to my argument.

See here for Mr Blair’s thrust on the issue, as reported today on the website of the – DAILY MAIL

This from the man who pressed the button and began the whole process of devolution within the constituent nations of the United Kingdom, which – though, of course, he failed to think these things through properly at the time he came up with the wheeze – has led directly and inevitably to the current position in which Scotland, and to a lesser extent Wales, has ‘got the devolution bit between its teeth’ and will go on threatening to leave the union unless and until more and more concessions (and funding) are ceded to it, or indeed them.

From my viewpoint as an Englishman, the sooner we get rid of the moaning ‘chip on their shoulder’ Scots the better. Never mind Blair’s supposed ‘nightmare’ scenario in which, if the UK votes for Brexit, Scotland will inevitably organise a second referendum and vote to leave the union – I’d personally like to see a second [YES/NO] question put on the EU Referendum voting papers issued to all voters in English constituencies: “As an English man or woman [sorry, I’m making no concessions for our transgender friends], would you like to see Scotland thrown out of the UK?”.

The fanciful idea floated by Alex Salmond and his cohorts in the run-up to the last Scottish Referendum that – if the UK ever voted to quit the EU in circumstances where Scottish voters would have liked to remain within the EU – then Scotland would reserve the right to declare UDI in order to stay in the EU … was, of course, a self-evident pile of crap.

Not least because, Scotland being part of the UK, if the UK overall voted for Brexit, Scotland wouldn’t even have the option – neither as far as the UK was concerned, nor indeed the EU itself.

If Scotland went independent from the UK, it would not be still within the EU. It would be on the outside, having to apply to get back in under its own (solo) steam. And to achieve that, all the other 27 (or 28?) countries would have to agree to it unanimously. Plus, with several other peripheral countries already bidding to join the EU, as the newest applicant Scotland would have to go right to the back of the queue. And how long would the process take – five, ten, fifteen years? By that sort of time Scotland would have been long bankrupt, and without the option of coming back, begging bowl in hand, tail between its legs, asking to be let back into the UK.

How so? Well, for a start, because the moment the (non-Scotland) UK had got rid of its ties with both the EU and those ‘north of the border’, I’d pass legislation that absolutely forbade it.

 

GOOGLE TAX DEAL

borisA few days ago, Boris Johnson summoned the brainpower to row in behind my view on the now-infamous Google back-tax deal.

My point on this issue had been that there was a cosy and unspoken conspiracy amongst the British political establishment whereby (whatever its political hue in power at any given time) it never legislated [as, of course, it could] to ‘deal with’ the supposed problem of global multi-national companies organising their structure and affairs in order to minimise the tax they paid in individual countries.

Why? Well, because it left them in the happy position of ‘hosting’ such giants (with all the economic and prestige benefits that brought) whilst, from time to time, as and if public outrage grew to an appropriate level – to keep a lid on things – they could simply go public with their moral concern about the fact that such organisations paid so little tax in the UK.

Helpfully, Boris added another point to the mix – one that I was already aware of, but which I had not mentioned.

He pointed out that – far from being a moral issue – the ongoing obligation of all company directors is to minimise their organisation’s tax liabilities to the extent they can, so why was anyone complaining when they did this?

In fact, at least in the UK, this is not just an obligation, it is a legal fiduciary duty and one that was enforced by further legislation passed recently strengthening this duty and indeed the penalties for falling down upon it.

As a matter of fact, not so long ago – when I was living in a block of flats – I cited the latest legislation in dealing with a structural problem. Due to lack of regular inspections and maintenance work, the outside of my flat’s wall [but still within the building if you see what I mean] was suffering not just from damp, but a flow of water seeping down it.

As ever, the management board was varied in its attention to anything and everything. However, of course, if ever a similar ‘maintenance’ issue arose in relation to one of their own flats, it was always dealt with instantly, irrespective of cost.

After three weeks of ‘no action’, I then wrote a letter to the managing agent, copied to every member of the management board, offering to come round to any of their flats at a time convenient to them, armed with a hose that I would set to a flow level consistent with that I was experiencing, and give them a demonstration on the outside of their walls, in the hope of persuading them that action was required.

I also reminded them of the new, and much more onerous, duties of company directors (including personal liability for negligence) and suggested that – if and as I discovered that the value of my flat had decreased because of the ongoing water damage that they had so far failed to deal with, I would not hesitate to resort to legal action to recover that loss from each of them, jointly and severally.

My letter had the desired effect.

The point is, as I understand it, the law now requires that company directors must act exclusively in the interests (not least financial) of the company’s shareholders.

And – surely – it is obviously in the interests of company shareholders that their company, whilst paying all taxes that it is legally bound to do, absolutely organises itself to pay the minimum in tax it can … thereby making available more net profit to be shared out amongst the shareholders?

If I should win the next General Election (after all if Mr Corbyn can rise to leadership of the Labour Party then presumably anything is possible) I think I shall offer Boris a seat in my Cabinet. It would certainly add to the gaiety of life.

About Simon Campion-Brown

A former lecturer in politics at Keele University, Simon now lives in Oxfordshire. Married with two children, in 2007 he decided to monitor the Westminster village via newspaper and television and has never looked back. More Posts