Sunday, February 8, 2009

Bright Moves Up from Statesman to Spectator

Paul Johnson did it. Melanie Philips did it. They of course had God by their side when they shifted. Bright hasn’t found God as far as Guido knows and he still sees himself, perhaps needs to see himself, as a man of the left. Bright, until recently political editor of the New Statesman, is now blogging for the Speccie.“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Can it be long before Nick Cohen follows?

Saturday, February 7, 2009

LBC Get Wikileaked

Guido loves Wikileaks. They are like a risk management tool for bloggers. Ben Goldacre of Bad Science blog hosted an MP3 excerpt of an LBC show where a presenter, Jeni Barnett, gave an “irresponsible, ill-informed, and ignorant anti-vaccination campaigning that I have ever heard on the public airwaves.” MMR jabs are a subject of intense debate in the Fawkes household. Mrs Fawkes is in the don’t-care-if-it-is-irrational camp, consequently Guido is in the forced-to-cough-up-£300-for-single-shots camp.

LBC threatened to sue Ben Goldacre for breach of copyright.* Big mistake. He took it down and in his place others put it back online. It has probably now been heard online by more people than originally heard it broadcast. Download it via Wikileaks (MP3).

Distributed defiance of lawyers is something the Dead-Tree-Press can’t do. Bloggers are the free press.

*In any event Guido is under the impression that damages in copyright cases are limited to the financial loss caused by the breach of copyright, which in this case would presumably be very limited.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Tax Justice Protest Against Guardian Tax Dodging

Tax Justice campaigners had a small demonstration outside the Guardian’s offices today to protest at the hypocrisy of the Guardian campaigning for FTSE 100 companies to pay more corporation tax when, despite GMG making £300 million in profits last year, it paid none itself. GMG took advantage of a perfectly legal loophole to avoid paying taxes on the capital gains made on the sale of Auto Trader. Without exploiting the law they would have had to pay more than £50 million in tax!

The campaigners also highlighted that as well as being adept tax avoiders nowadays, the Guardian’s heritage is one of tax evasion. The Trust that owns the paper, the C P Scott Trust, was set up for the sole purpose of avoiding death duties following the 1932 death of C P Scott. By depriving the revenue of its due, the Scott family succeeded in avoiding the heavy taxes which would have otherwise meant them selling their interest in the paper. Neat dodge, eh? What did the Guardian say about Osborne’s plan to raise inheritance tax thresholds?

It is ridiculous hypocrisy for the GMG fatcats to lecture the CEO’s of British industry on paying more corporation tax when they don’t pay a penny themselves. At the very least they should voluntarily pay the £600,000 that would have been payable as a result of the Auto Trader transaction on the transfer of GMG Hazel Acquisition 1 Limited (a Caymans incorporated Special Purpose Vehicle) if it had been incorporated in the UK rather than the Caymans. If they won’t pay the £600,000 to the Revenue, why do they expect other corporations to behave differently? Hypocrites.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Vince Gets Aggressive

Vince Cable, writing in the Guardian this morning, has his usual mixed-bag of platitudes and soundbites on corporate taxation. He wants to widen the base, raise the take, simplify and cut corporate taxation. Fantastic, Guido wants world peace and to help children as well, just like any other beauty contestant. Vince also says;
“there is a strong case for a more aggressive approach to tax avoidance. The systematic and widespread avoidance of stamp duty land tax by corporate vehicles can be stopped quickly.”

Does he mean corporations like GMG Hazel Acquisition 1 Limited, set up in the Caymans Isles where the corporation tax rate is zero? This corporate vehicle allowed the Guardian Media Group to dodge stamp duty saving itself a mere £600,000. Surely not?

Incidentally, do you think when Cable was Shell’s chief economist, he pestered the board to drop all their tax base narrowing, take reducing, complex corporate tax dodging? Aggression, Guido suspects, has come late to Vince…

Monday, February 2, 2009

Guardian’s Tax Hypocrisy is Ridiculous

The multi-millionaire columnist Polly Toynbee is this morning ranting against tax dodging corporations in the Guardian. The paper has even set up a campaigning website with fancy interactive graphics. According to the their own annual report Guardian Media Group made £306.4 million before tax. Using astute tax planning and legal manipulation of the tax laws; such as the use of an equity owning trust and a Caymans Islands offshore corporation to avoid stamp duty, they managed to only pay get a rebate of £800,000 in tax last year. That is less than they paid the Guardian Media Group’s chief executive, Carolyn McCall, she got a package of £827,000 whereas so the media fat cats got paid by HM Revenue Commissioners a mere £800,000 in corporation tax. Unbelievable isn’t it?

Here it is in black and white:

 

GMG P + L

The hypocrisy of the Guardianistas is just beyond satire, they are starting a campaign to get corporations to pay more tax, just like they campaign to undermine private education yet themselves went to private schools, they rail against City bonuses yet pay the editor and CEO hundreds of thousands in bonuses. Media fat cats attacking City fat cats is just laughable. Polly says “it’s time to rattle and bang in protest at this outrage”. Quite. Guido has tried to mention this on the Guardian’s Tax Gap campaign blog to no avail…

UPDATE 11.55 : Richard Brooks from the Guardian’s “Tax Gap” blog emails to say they are going to explain the Guardian Media Group’s situation using the same approach they used on the FTSE 100 corporations. Incidentally, before anyone points it out, this blog is published by an offshore corporation owned by an opaque charitable trust, in a remarkably similar way to the Guardian set-up. However, crucially, this blog takes an editorial line which is hypocrisy free, Guido is opposed to most forms of taxation in principle: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

UPDATE 12.09 : As some have pointed out, that looks like an £800,000 tax rebate, rather than a payment. Even worse. No wonder the Guardian can afford shiny new fancy offices…

UPDATE 16.50 : Note amendments and strike-throughs, also note that the Tax Gap blog has now let Guido’s comments through. They also cite Richard Murphy as a tax expert who approves of GMG’s tax strategies. Richard Murphy is hardly independent, he is a regular writer for the Guardian. The Cayman’s dodge was tax neutral they claim. Except when, in the future, it comes to capital gains tax of course.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Polly Should Look at Her Bosses’ Fat Cat Bonuses

The Tuscan redistributionist friend of the down-trodden, the three-house-owning, multi-millionairess toff, Polly Toynbee, is ranting against undeserved bonuses. With the colourful prose that earns her £117,000 basic (before book royalties, media fees and advances) she lays into the worth of “performance-related pay” and the bonus culture that sees loss making Northern Rock bosses get a 10% bonus.The loss making Guardian’s editor, Alan Rusbridger, got by on a total compensation package of a mere £544,000 up from £473,000 last year. A 15% increase as a reward for losing £26.4 million – no belt tightening for him. His boss, the Guardian Media Group chief executive, Carolyn McCall, was paid a package of £827,000, comprising a salary of £424,000, plus a bonus of £385,000 and benefits in kind of £18,000. An eye watering 90% bonus.

Handy having your friends, rather than shareholders, decide your pay isn’t it? Guido has said it before and he will say it again, Polly merely dislikes the “wrong type” of rich people.

Incidentally, GMG have always been adept at using the Scott Trust and other dodges to minimise tax charges. Guido congratulates them on achieving an effective tax rate 4.99% last year. Remember that the next time Polly Toynbee calls for higher taxes and everyone to pay a fair share.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Exclusive : LibDem is New Boss"Get Yer Evening Standard! Evening Standard! Only a Quid!"

Ex-KGB man turned oligarch, Alexander Lebedev, is said to have paid a nominal £1 for a stake of 75.1% in the London Evening Boris. Which kind of supports Guido’s thesis that the newspaper business is a dying business.

This might not be good news for Boris, the paper has been a staunch supporter of him, Lebedev’s consigliere, Justin Byam Shaw, will become deputy chairman. The wheeler dealer is fondly known as Justin Byem Sellem and is presumably a supporter of the LibDems since Guido understands he donated money to Nick Clegg’s leadership campaign – although strangely Guido can find no record of this on the Electoral Commission register. Boris might not be able to count on slavish support in the future…

What is the betting that Lebedev will buy the Indy next? Any takers?

UPDATE 16.30 : Nick Clegg’s office have been in touch to say Justin Byam Shaw gave £3,000 to Clegg’s leadership campaign and it is on the Electoral Register. Clegg has two separate entries, one as leader and another as an MP. Guido was looking at the wrong one. Doh!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Limo for Mr Maguire

Mirror Man in Toff Transport Shocker

Guido is feeling a little tender after last night’s “Farewell to Bush” party thrown by Tim Montgomerie. At the after-party in the Westminster Arms, Guido thought he spotted Kevin Maguire, tribune of the workers, hammer of the Cameron and scourge of the Bullingdon boys etcetera, getting into the back seat of the preferred choice of the boss class, a big chauffeur-driven Mercedes. No bicycle with driver following, nor public transport for him. Was it all a Guinness-fuelled hallucination? Surely after all he has written about Cameron’s hypocrisy, he himself would not be guilty of such hypocrisy? It is after all only a few stops on the District line to his mansion in the millionaire’s suburb of leafy Richmond

“Nothing is too good for the workers” he said testily. Guido, hopefully, was not too fuddled to video our discussion on the subject, and in the best traditions of the Mirror, this will be uploaded. As and when the headache subsides enough…

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Growing Unease About Old Lady’s Secrecy

Remember Something Odd in the Banking Bill from early December? Guido was suspicious about the removal of the requirement of the Bank of England to tell us how much money it is printing:
The 1844 Banking Bill ensured transparency in the operations of the Bank of England. It has been good enough for over 164 years.


Surely it can’t be that they don’t want us to know how fast the Bank of England’s printing presses are going to be running?

The Telegraph’s economics editor has just cottoned on to the dodge:

The Government is set to throw out the 165-year old law that obliges the Bank to publish a weekly account of its balance sheet – a move that will allow it theoretically to embark covertly on so-called quantitative easing. The Banking Bill, which is currently passing through Parliament, abolishes a key section of the law laid down by Robert Peel’s Government in 1844 which originally granted the Bank the sole right to print UK money.

… Debating the issue in the House of Lords recently, Lord James of Blackheath, a Conservative peer, said: “Remove [this] control and there is nothing to stop an unreported and unmonitored flooding of the money market by the undisciplined use of the printing presses. If we went down that path we would be following a road which starts in Weimar, goes on through Harare and must not end in Westminster and London. That is the great fear that the abolition of that section will bring about – but the Bill abolishes it.”

You read it here first…

UPDATE 12 Jan : The FT is calling it Quantitative Easing Confidential. Guido is quite chuffed to have beaten the FT to the story.

Seen Elsewhere

Milburn Health Consultancy Worth £2 Million | Scrapbook
Stuart Broad Right, Peston Broadly Wrong | Ryan Bourne
The 38 Seats in England Yet to Select a Tory Candidate | ConHome
Labour and Green Ecofascism | Matthew Walsh
Burnham Shows Why Labour Can’t Be Trusted | Speccie
Why Online Voting is a Crap Idea | Ballot Box
Time We Showed Super Rich Some Love | Alice Thomson
We Need True Popular Capitalism | Maurice Saatchi
Labour’s Winning Hand | Sebastian Shakespeare
We Defend Labour’s Record | John Hutton and Alan Milburn
100 Tories to Rebel on Plain Packs | Telegraph


Rising Stars
Find out more about PLMR AD-MS


Alan Milburn says Labour’s scaremongering campaign for an unreformed NHS will not win election…

“It would be a fatal mistake, in my view, for Labour to go into this election looking as though it is the party that would better resource the National Health Service but not necessarily put its foot to the floor when it comes to reforming. Look, reforms are not easy, but the Labour Party is not a conservative party. It should be about moving things forward not preserving them in aspic. You have got a pale imitation actually of the 1992 general election campaign, and maybe it will have the same outcome. I don’t know.”


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