“We are all in this together!” shrieked the delicious George ‘Gideon’ Osborne at the Tory conference this September (Gideon is absolutely my favourite Tory, ranked even higher than that shimmering human butter mountain, Eric Pickles). I don’t think any of us thought for one moment that he was poised to hand his £4.3 million personal fortune over to the Treasury for immediate redistribution to those most in need, but the speech was intended to give a signal that all of us would have to suffer while gallant George, fighting from the front, dealt with the national debt.
Of course, no one with half a brain was fooled for a second. We know what Tories do: they cut taxes for the very wealthy while cutting spending on public services to pay for it. It’s roughly that simple (perhaps you might want to throw in a bit of righteous whining about family values for good measure). Nevertheless, I was still slightly surprised to learn that Zac Goldsmith, David Cameron’s so-called ‘Green Guru’ and prospective Tory candidate for Richmond Park, has been avoiding tax on his £200 million fortune by virtue of being a ‘non-dom’. Only slightly surprised of course, as the same has long been suspected of another of Cameron’s close aides, Lord Ashcroft. Ashcroft’s position is less clear than Goldsmith’s, principally because no one from the Conservative Party ever gives a straight answer about his tax status, but if he is avoiding large amounts it will certainly be a great help when it comes to pouring vast sums of money into Tory coffers both nationally and in key marginal constituencies.
There will, of course, be a limited level of fuss about all this in certain areas of the media for a day or two, but the Tories will know that they just have to sit tight and it will all blow over. Their immunity to any kind of meaningful media scrutiny will probably remain intact. Goldsmith will still be their candidate at the General Election, Cameron will brush off his implied support for the non-payment of tax in the UK and, as we still won’t get an answer on Ashcroft, the millions will keep rolling in to help the Tory election effort.
At least, I suppose, no one can say they didn’t know what sort of people to expect if the Tories do form a government next year.