Fools, Fools, Fools

2 May 2024

Fools, Fools, Fools

by J.R.Thomas

Angela Rayner may have lacked political nous in the way she handled her tax affairs, but she is as nothing compared with the absurd and foolish pack of Tory hounds out to drag Sir Keir’s foxy deputy to the ground for what are, let’s face it, at worst, very minor mis-doings.

It is of course possible, in any event, that Ms Rayner will be entirely exonerated by the investigations now being carried out by Greater Manchester police, a whole minibus load of whom are now been distracted from apprehending shop lifters, deterring muggers and catching speedsters in Stockport.  Indeed, mi’learned friends opine that any under-payment of tax is a matter for negotiation and penalties from HM Customs and Excise, and that any offences relating to where Ms Rayner was registered to vote are long time expired.  (Angela’s promise to resign if found guilty of any offence thus rests on rather fragile technical definitions.)  And whilst she may do the honourable thing, she is without doubt an ambitious politician, who having got this close to the glittering Socialist prizes, will not easily walk away.

Let us also say that Sir Keir must be contemplating all this brouhaha with mixed feelings.  On the one hand nobody would want a popular political colleague brought down by Tory “scum” (copyright Ms A. Rayner); on the other hand, any defenestration of said colleague would greatly assist the completion of Starmer’s removal of Labour from the clutches of Momentum.  Like the old joke, it is as if Keir were watching his troublesome mother-in-law drive off a cliff – in his new Jaguar.  

Certainly, if Ms Rayner is cleared, much mud will backfire onto various Tories, big-wigged and small-wigged alike, who have leapt a little too eagerly into the fray.  Most readers will know the background to the allegations, but just to recap: Ms Rayner bought her Stockport council house, as she was perfectly entitled to, at a discount under the Blessed Margaret’s reforms to create a property owning democracy and to get tenants out from under the thumbs of repressive and incompetent local authority ownership.  It was perhaps an odd thing for a socialist to do; but of course, she was not then an M.P, but a single mother with a son and no doubt wanted financial security for herself and her family.  Later she married Mr Rayner and had two more children and became an M.P, was divorced and rose rapidly to her present eminence.  She is intelligent, funny, and fiery, all admirable traits in a politician.  (Not so admired by her former neighbours it would seem though, judging by the numbers who seem to want to do her down.)

She eventually sold the house and made a capital gain.  She says that this house was at all relevant times her Principal Private Residence, a very key matter to the taxman, as any capital gains on such a residence are tax free; not so, if the property owner’s PPR is elsewhere.  This is also of interest when it comes to the Electoral Register, as voters must be registered at their PPR.  Led by Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft, who ought to know better, various Conservative M.P’s, journalists and interested neighbours say Ms Rayner lived full time with Mr Rayner and her children at Mr Rayner’s house, and that Ms Rayner’s brother lived in Ms Rayner’s house.  Ms Rayner says that indeed she spent some of her time at what divorce lawyers lovingly call “the matrimonial home”, but also much time at her own house with the children.  Which then was her Principal Private Residence?  The taxman accepted Ms Rayner’s claim that her PPR was her own house, and thus that no capital gains tax was due, and she says furthermore that she took proper professional advice on the matter. 

We will ignore all the neighbours’ opinions and the various documents in the case, some of which might suggest one thing and some another.  In the end the taxman will decide if the tax return was correct on whatever facts are before him, and he may change his mind – or he may not.  If he thinks the tax return was in error, he will issue a tax demand, with financial penalties.  If he thinks a deliberate fraud took place, then he might hand things over to his own enforcement colleagues or the police, but given the subjectivity of the whole set of slightly absurd rules, that seems unlikely. The whole tax system here is – what shall we say – strange, and a bit redolent of the days when husbands were ruling the roost, and the roost, or Principle Private Roost, was where the husband rested his weary bones. (Apologies to readers who are tax lawyers to whom this is a very serious matter, no doubt.)

The voter registration matter is apparently what the police are spending their time on.  It is a fraud to say you live somewhere where you don’t and to vote there, even if the claimed residence is in the same constituency where you are actually living, and thus the electoral result is not affected. Nuts and sledge hammers come to mind; in any case even if the Rayner address given was incorrect, the staute of limitations for any offence is two years.

Which brings us to the baying pack of Conservative politicians.  You may have noticed recently that various Tory M.P’s have been mentioned in the media, in connection with rather large expense claims, asking for money to be given to alleged kidnappers, being the subject of honey traps and passing on private details of colleagues to the trappers, and various allegations of a sexual nature.  Indeed, ten current Tory members of parliament have the party whip suspended.  (And we promised not to mention our dearly beloved Foreign Secretary’s somewhat obscure ways of generating income since he ceased his Prime Ministerial duties, so we won’t.)

But you may think that going after Angela Rayner is nothing more than well deserved revenge for her Tory “scum” remarks, which were, in greater detail: “We cannot get any worse than a bunch of scum, homophobic, racist, misogynistic, absolute vile … banana republic, vile, nasty, Etonian … piece of scum,”. (“Banana republic” seems a bit out of place and her English is not great, but we get the drift.). 

A much finer Conservative approach would have been to politely say of Ms Rayner’s possible confusion as to where she lived, that “no doubt this matter will be resolved in due course and we are pleased that she was able to take advantage of a Conservative government’s helpful reforms of the housing market.”  Forgiving, elegant, dignified, understanding, and subtle point made; but beyond most modern Conservative politicians.  And politically, surely much better to leave Starmer’s embarrassing deputy sitting right next to him, where she might do serious damage to him in a year or two?  Clever and foresightful; but modern Tories… you get the drift.  Fools, fools, fools.

I must pay tribute to my fellow contributor Don Urquhart, the Corbynista, who died last week.  We had known each other over twenty years and rarely agreed on anything politically; but he was the most understanding, funny, and delightful colleague.  He will be truly missed.

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