David Aaronovitch suggests, not completely seriously, that perhaps it would be better to just publish people’s tax returns publicly rather than having a High Pay Quango to regulate banker’s bonuses. As Aaronovitch says, it would be fun.
It will also destroy any semblance of privacy. If private individuals have made money in the private sector why does anyone apart from their paymasters – the shareholders – have a right to know what they are being paid?
On the other hand everyone in the public sector and in public life should be transparent with their paymasters – the public. So BBC mandarins, Newsnight presenters, civil servants and politicians should reveal how much of our money they are trousering, down to the last penny. We are the paymasters.
It seems eminently sensible that members of parliament should, as in America, publish their tax returns. It would be nice to know how Mandelson in less than a decade has gone from being broke and tearful in his Hartlepool constituency with “water pouring down the walls”, to being able to afford a £2.4 million mansion off Regent’s Park for cash. He did this during a decade in which he was a selfless public servant. Multi-millionaire John Prescott’s tax returns would be similarly interesting. Alan Duncan is wailing that he might be a millionaire, but he isn’t rich, show us the truth Dunky and we will understand.
Polly Toynbee, the multi-millionairess toff and three-house-owning, Tuscan redistributionist friend of the down-trodden, made the same demand some time back, namely for everyone to have their tax return in the public domain. Guido emailed her to ask how much she made, she demanded to know details of Guido’s tax return first. Guido gave the figure, she declined to reciprocate. She did later reveal she was getting by on a mere £117,000 basic before book advances, royalties and appearance fees. Barely enough to maintain her three residences.
So Aaronovitch, here is a chance for you to lead by example: how much did you make last year?