The Telegraph is continuing its attack on parliament, the rule of law and HMRC's actions in upholding that law today, reporting that:
Britain’s major political parties should be stripped of their tax free status because they misjudged the country by backing Remain ahead of the European Union referendum, two Leave donors say today.
Jeremy Hosking, a City fund manager, and Stuart Wheeler, a spread betting millionaire, blamed HM Revenue and Customs’ attempts to levy inheritance tax bills on "dark forces" and said they were “un-British” and evidence of “a counter referendum-result witch hunt” by the Establishment.
This is, of course, all about the inheritance tax charges that have been levied on large donors to the EU Leave campaign, which as I have explained, are wholly legally appropriate and which it would be illegal for HMRC to ignore given that parliament has passed a law that it is upholding.
There remain a number of very deep and really unpleasant aspects to the Telegraph's comments. Let's leave aside for a moment the fact that the paper is run by two tax exiles. Let's also leave aside the way they dominate Sark and its legal processes. They do not much matter in this context.
What does matter is that a national newspaper is suggesting that it is "un-British" to tax the wealthy on their use of their wealth when that gives rise to a legitimate tax bill.
And it does matter that it is suggested that this is the consequence of "dark forces" at work when it is nothing of the sort. It would be the work of "dark forces" to apply the law with discretion and only on those whom the Telegraph thought appropriate. It is enlightened to apply it with an even hand.
Let me also be clear: I too am a critic of HMRC. But I criticise it for not upholding the law and being too pragmatic to wealth and the interests of large business at cost to society and the rest of us who might make additional tax payment as a result. I think it fair to cast my criticism as being unambiguously pro the upholding of the rule of law and in favour of the use of democratically determined legislation.
Here though we have a national newspaper opposing the use of that democratically decided upon law so that the interests of a wealthy elite might be favoured whilst implying that to do so is pro-British.
If taking back control means returning to a feudal era where society is structured for the benefit of the wealthy then clearly the Telegraph is right in its call. But if it was about restoring British democracy, as some claimed, then it is very wrong indeed. I think we can be quite clear on which side of that line the Telegraph falls, and it is the wrong one. The trouble is a Tory faithful readership will lap this up as evidence that the world is not as their masters think it should be, and will agree with them.
To describe this as irresponsible journalism of the type last seem in the thirties in this country is to be kind to the Telegraph. Let's call it the fundamentally anti-democratic demand that it is.