Jimmy Carr or David Cameron - who is the real tax hypocrite?
Debate rages after the Prime Minister has his say on the comedian's tax affairs
ALLEGATIONS of hypocrisy have been flying in all directions as the Jimmy Carr tax row rumbles on and people have their say on David Cameron's decision to come out and condemn the comedian, who apologised on Twitter this morning.
Many agreed with the Prime Minister when he said that the satirist, who had mocked banks for avoiding tax, was guilty of double standards. But there were plenty of others who argued that the PM was in no position to pass judgment. They focused on the PM's privileged background and the tax arrangements of other Conservative MPs and supporters, and argued that Cameron was being two-faced.
Patrick Wintour, the political editor of The Guardian, predicted the storm when he tweeted last night: "Many Tory donors will be looking at their tax affairs after Cameron slams Jimmy Carr's arrangements. Open season?" Sure enough Twitter was soon seething with debate and bloggers were queuing up to have their say on the matter.
At the vanguard was former Labour deputy Prime Minister John Prescott who fired off a series of tweets relating to Cameron's denunciation of Carr. "So if you're a comedian and avoid tax, the Tories condemn you. If you're a millionaire donor and avoid tax, you get a peerage! #ashcroft," he tweeted on Wednesday evening, in reference to former Tory deputy chairman Lord Ashcroft, who was not domiciled in Britain for tax purposes.
The Independent hinted that the Prime Minister was being selective in his targets. "Cameron refused to be drawn on separate claims that Gary Barlow and other members of the Take That pop group had also put their money in a scheme designed to avoid tax," it noted. "The disclosure was embarrassing for him as Barlow campaigned alongside the Tory leader at the last general election and received the OBE last week."
The row over Vodafone's tax arrangements also re-emerged on Twitter. Last year MPs claimed HMRC had failed to collect some £25.5bn owed by firms including Goldman Sachs and Vodafone. A graphic began circulating, which alleged Vodafone had avoided 3,484 times as much tax as Carr.
Marina Hyde of The Guardian pointedly noted that another man with controversial tax arrangements, Top Shop boss Philip Green, had been put in charge of the Coalition's efficiency review. She suggested that the PM's advisers had blundered by allowing him to comment.
But Cameron had the right to say what he did, claimed the New Statesman's Staggers blog. "It [was] certainly a licence for journalists to rake over Tory donors' tax returns. But doesn't the argument about whether or not he's been politically inept or hypocritical, mask another uncomfortable truth: that he could be right?"
Daily Telegraph blogger Brendan O'Neill suggested that everyone was to blame and the row was simply part of a "new fashion for recession-related scapegoating".
"Carr is a victim, not so much of his own stupidity, but of the terrifying return of the medieval urge to hurl tomatoes/tweets at depraved individuals, and in the process destroy those individuals, in order to make ourselves feel temporarily better about living in confused times," he wrote.