The FT has done itself little credit over the last few weeks with a mass of letters and commentary supporting the tiny non-domiciled elite who live in this country. A great many people have commented to me at how sickening they have found this.
But it did not please the non-doms despite this. On Wednesday they published an extraordinary letter from a Mr Derek Randall, which said, amongst much else:
[O]ver recent weeks you have exhibited through your editorials, columnists, including the veteran Martin Wolf, and your correspondence column a disconcerting and surprisingly wicked and mischievous bias against the preoccupations and concerns of non-domiciled but resident people living in the UK
He went on to say:
[T]he manner of the introduction of the measures, … and the reason for their introduction, that is, a sop to the unions, and the stoking up of resentment against predominantly foreigners, who push up restaurant prices, and order fine wines – smack of the worst excesses of 1970s socialism: Roy Jenkins’ surcharge on surtax, and recall the famous words of his successor, Denis Healey, referring to “squeezing the rich till the pips squeak” as the rich were pummelled, resulting in an exodus of talent and capital.
It is so easy to achieve easy popularity by stoking up envy of those who are made to feel uncomfortable, unwelcome and even despised and you ought to be ashamed of allowing the FT to become a vessel for such populist mischievousness and malignancy.
Thankfully such ill informed, and bluntly offensive comment has resulted in appropriate response, published today, which again I quote only in part from Jonathan Howcroft:
I am unaccustomed to rising to such tawdry bait but I feel I must publicly object to the risible comments of David A. Randall (Letters, March 12).
Not only is he misleading when claiming the FT is biased in favour of punitive measures to combat the growth of the super-rich, but his choice of language and imagery would be laughable were he clearly not so sincere.
Implying that “non-doms” are a victimised minority is absurd – worse still when he allows his allegory to slip into the semantics of “plight”. If theirs is a plight, I envy their suffering.
Surely the sensible approach to this fiasco is to agree on the principle of an equitable and constructive system of redistributive taxation, which satisfies the dissenting majority of the population without isolating a fundamental element of Britain’s 21st century economy.
If this debate has proven one thing it is that those who argue for privilege have no logic to support their cause. They just have fear of losing their advantage and envy of those who might approach their monetary wealth to motivate them. At the same time, those of us arguing for fair and appropriate taxation have shown we have all the arguments.
And that will remain the case. Which is a cause for considerable optimism.
It’s a shame that my profession did in the process show itself to be so intellectually bankrupt, but that’s a price you pay for follwoing the money.