Instant Opinion

‘Tax avoidance violates British notions of fairness’

Your digest of analysis from the British and international press

1

James Bloodworth in The New Statesman

‘We’d all do it if we could’ is no defence of Rishi Sunak’s wife

on tax avoidance

Since news broke about Rishi Sunak’s wife’s non-dom status last week, James Bloodworth has been hearing the phrase “we’d all do it if we could” – mostly coming from “Conservative apologists for the Chancellor”. This is “rather a moot point”, he writes in The New Statesman. In reality, “most people in Britain cannot afford the sort of tricksy accountant or lawyer required to avoid tax”. While tax avoidance is not illegal, it “does violate widely accepted British notions of fairness”. The scandal “highlights once again the contrasting way in which rich and poor are treated in modern Britain”. At a time when politicians are urging the country to “balance the books”, perhaps they should “get busy closing the loopholes which make it so frighteningly easy for the fabulously rich to avoid paying tax”.

2

Melanie Phillips in The Times

Marine Le Pen’s rise shows conservatism has fractured

on political identities

“How on earth” has it happened that Marine Le Pen “is now considered by millions of French voters as a centrist?” asks Melanie Phillips in The Times. The leader of the far-right National Rally party “comes from an extreme nationalist and antisemetic political family background”, but she has “gone to considerable lengths to soften her image”. Phillips suggests that Le Pen’s “current combination of nationalism and socialism makes her… a national socialist”. Vladimir Putin too “presents himself as the defender of western civilisation”, a claim that “astonishingly still strikes a chord” with “a significant number of conservatives in Britain and America as well as in France”. The current political divisions in France demonstrate “what many have refused to learn from Trump, Orban and other similar electoral uprisings” – that “the yearning among people for a shared sense of belonging is inextinguishable”.

3

Tim Willasey-Wilsey in The Scotsman

Ukraine Russia war: the good, the bad and the ugly of the conflict so far

on lessons learned

Former diplomat and professor Tim Willasey-Wilsey says that “Ukraine has been a revelation”. Writing in The Scotsman, he notes: “Its president is a modern-day hero, its army has shown remarkable courage and the refugees extraordinary dignity.” In the modern world, where “nothing seems clear-cut, it is wonderful to have a hero and an even clearer villain”. But “nothing is ever quite so simple”. Willasey-Wilsey weighs up the good (Ukraine’s military performance, Nato’s unity, Russian incompetence) with the bad (Russia’s resilience, Western indecision and energy dependency). There is also the “ugly”. Joe Biden’s comments that Putin “cannot remain in power” were “unwise but true”, says Willasey-Wilsey. “Any peace treaty with Putin still in power will just be a pause while he regroups before trying again.” There is also “nothing more dangerous than a conscript army which is frightened and waging a war it does not comprehend”. And for as long as Putin has weapons of mass destruction, he “retains the option of using them”. Doing so would “rekindle our worst Cold War nightmares about global extinction”. 

4

Gillian Harvey in Metro

For those of us prone to depression, the ‘goblin mode’ trend could be dangerous

on looking in the mirror

“In recent months, online posts have celebrated the idea of ‘goblin mode’,” says Gillian Harvey in Metro. This describes “a state in which people let themselves go feral, living in their worst clothes and giving into the urge to gorge cold pasta from the fridge with their bare hands”. Goblin mode is “an understandable reaction to the odd world we currently inhabit”. Dressing up seems futile “when a crazy warmonger is threatening to go nuclear, or Covid-19 might come calling”. Harvey says: “I get it. But I’ll never do it. For those of us prone to depression, letting the inner goblin out would be a dangerous move.” In 2014, after suffering with depression for months, Harvey says she looked in the mirror and saw a “sad little creature looking back at me”, and was “confronted by the inadmissible evidence” that, “on this level at least, I’d let the depression win”. Now, she says, “I’d never dare to go full goblin”.

5

Shinzo Abe in The Los Angeles Times

The US must make clear to the world it will defend Taiwan against Chinese invasion

on ‘unwavering’ intentions

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has reminded many people of the fraught relationship between China and Taiwan,” Shinzo Abe, the former prime minister of Japan, writes at the Los Angeles Times. There are “similarities” between the two situations, specifically the “very large military power gap between Taiwan and China”, that neither Ukraine nor Taiwan “has formal military allies” and “the UN’s mediation function cannot be relied upon”, says Abe. But there are “significant differences” too, and the circumstances surrounding Taiwan are “even more uneasy”. The US’s policy of “strategic ambiguity” in relation to the island nation means Taiwan has had to “consider the possibility that the US will not intervene militarily” should Beijing invade. Abe says he “always made it a rule to convey clearly” to President Xi Jinping “that he should not misjudge” Japan’s “unwavering” intentions to defend the Senkaku Islands. “There must no longer be any room for doubt in our resolve concerning Taiwan,” he says.

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