Polly on non-doms

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Polly Toynbee and the Guardian have followed up on my Comment is Free on the non-doms yesterday with more comment today. Polly said:

The revelation that Zac Goldsmith is a non-dom comes as no surprise. .. To David Cameron's acute embarrassment here is yet another duck-island reminder.

Once Labour and the Lib Dems get this message across in next year's election campaign, Cameron's tax plans will look increasingly toxic — and politically inept.

Labour will draw its red lines in the pre-budget report next week. Darling needs to match the Liberal Democrats' radical measures: taking the 4 million lowest paid people out of tax which is paid with a charge on the wealthiest properties is a not-too-subtle reminder of Gordon Brown's hit on the low paid when he abolished the 10p tax band.

Labour has much to atone for in the tax system. After 13 years of wooing the City and enriching the rich, Labour finds the nerve to raise the top income tax rate only a month before it may leave office. Less noticed restrictions on top pension relief will yield even more — but all this is riskily late for Labour to reap the rewards.

A radical pre-budget report would catch Cameron on the back foot, his own tax plans leaving him damagingly vulnerable to charges of rewarding his friends and donors. Escaping his tax cut pledges will be as hard as spelling out how he can pay down the deficit faster than Labour's already eye-wateringly foolish plan. Suddenly being Dave doesn't look as much fun as it was.

The editorial hits different theme — of accountability:

[A]t the weekend it emerged that the man who must be the richest would-be Tory MP, Zac Goldsmith, is non-domiciled in the UK for tax purposes. This is not, as the Conservatives say, a minor and private matter. It exposes an obvious hypocrisy: that while the party preaches austerity, in practice that may mean austerity for everyone other than the rich. In his defence, Mr Goldsmith says he intends to change his status next year, and that he does pay tax in this country on his UK income. But that is not sufficient. Voters have the right to expect every Conservative candidate to meet their obligations as citizens.

For the Conservatives, just as for Mr Goldsmith personally, political morality comes as a whole; any retreat from consistency casts a shadow. A party that led the rhetorical charge against non-doms in Britain should not put a non-dom forward for election. A party that says the budget deficit is the priority should not be planning to cut inheritance tax. And a party that has spoken out against corporate excess should not, as the Tory treasurer did in a Financial Times interview yesterday, also promise to "cherish the City" and cut corporation tax.

Then there is the opaque tax status of Lord Ashcroft, the Victoria Cross-purchasing billionaire Tory deputy chairman. He promised to take up permanent residence in the UK when he took his peerage in 1999, but it remains unclear whether he pays tax in this country — and if so, how much. Senior Conservatives look uncomfortable when asked about his position and activities and that in itself is telling.

In a speech last Friday, the shadow chief secretary, Philip Hammond, said that Conservatives need to show "honesty and a clarity, with ourselves and with the electorate". He is right about that. Perhaps he should have a word with Mr Goldsmith, and Lord Ashcroft.

Both are on target and show that in addition to the outright discrimination on which I focussed there is much more to this issue.

Now it is time for people to see just what the new Tories are. Unfit for office is one description.