The Telegraph has declared today that:
Oops! There's a £100 billion hole in Jeremy Corbyn's tax plans
This all comes down, quote literally, to Jolyon Maugham's blog in which he declared (without quite clearly ever having read my work) that he could not see how there could be a £120 billion tax gap and then claimed that Jeremy Corbyn had said he could collect it all even though if Jolyon had, again, read my work on which he is relying he would have noticed that I had always said that no more than £20 billion was recoverable.
Jolyon - and so the Telegraph - based his claim on this statement in Jeremy Corbyn's tax manifesto, for which I have no responsibility at all:
Three things. First, it is normal to explain large numbers in terms people can relate to: so, £2,000 a head.
Second, it is true that this money is taken from us all.
And then, thirdly, we come to the critical phrase:
And we can address this
Now Jolyon is a barrister; he should know a thing or two about words. And he should know then that in politics there is a massive difference between "we can stop this" and "we can address this". The first is an absolute. The second implies a plan of action.
Let's put this in another context. Suppose we were discussing murder statistics and there were 1,800 a year. It would be quite fair to say "that is five a day". And a serious politician would never say "we can stop this" but could and probably would say "we can address this" and set out how they might do so. The aim would be to reduce the problem: the words imply that because everyone knows that it cannot be solved.
But Jolyon said something different: he said those words mean that Jeremy Corbyn said £120 billion could be recovered. He did not ever mean that.
How do I know? Well if he had thought that was possible his close friend and colleague John McDonnell MP would not have needed to write in the Guardian yesterday under the title:
Jeremy Corbyn would clear the deficit – but not by hitting the poor
He could just have said 'job done'. But he didn't, of course.
So Jolyon is wrong. And so are the Telegraph. Both found a scoop where there was no story to tell. Because I had always said there was only £20 billion at best to collect, and Jeremy Corbyn never implied otherwise as far as I can see.