In Depth

Dragon Bannatyne praises Labour ‘courage’ over non-dom change

Labour puts the ball in Tories’ court: will they do anything about wealthy foreigners evading tax?

The Mole

Dragon’s Den star Duncan Bannatyne has swapped sides and is backing Labour’s plan to scrap the tax shelter of wealthy “non-doms”, despite fears in some quarters that it will be seen as an attack on big business.

Only a week ago, Bannatyne added his name to the pro-Tory letter to the Daily Telegraph signed by 103 big business chief executives warning that Labour tax plans would “deter business and deter investment”. 

Now he has broken ranks to support Ed Miliband’s announcement that if Labour are elected on 7 May, they will scrap non-dom status for an estimated 115,000 businessmen who currently don’t have to pay taxes in Britain despite living here and in some cases being born here.

“This gets my vote,” Bannatyne tweeted. “I never thought any party would have courage to do this.” 

Bannatyne immediately received a rush of tweets wondering why he had apparently changed sides and whether he would now be supporting Ed Miliband for PM.

On the Today programme, the worst John Humphrys could throw at shadow chancellor Ed Balls was that Labour were proposing the change “because it will be hugely politically popular”.

Balls sounded delighted to plead guilty to that charge. “They’ve got more millionaires in New York than we have got in London but they don’t allow this non-dom status,” said Balls.

“I just think, as a principle, we should say everybody should play by the same rules. There shouldn’t be a laxer set of rules for a small minority because they are very wealthy.”

The Labour move clearly wrong-footed Chancellor George Osborne who could only say: “The small print of Labour’s policy makes clear that they are not actually abolishing non-dom status. This confusion is another reminder of why they can’t be trusted with our economy.”

The Tories now have to find a better answer – and a carefully judged one. After Osborne cut the top rate of tax for the wealthiest in Britain from 50p to 45p in the £, any refusal to countenance a non-dom solution would reinforce the message that the Tories are pro-millionaire against the rest.

As Mike Smithson of Political Betting said: “This could run for a few days which is what Labour wants. Osborne has to find a way of closing it down quickly.”

As for Ed Miliband, is it coincidence that today’s announcement comes a day after Tony Blair stopped pussy-footing and endorsed his leadership? It’s open to question whether Blair - who now mixes with the mega rich - would have been so comfortable doing that today.

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