IT’S time James Forsyth, political editor of the Spectator and close friend of Chancellor Rishi Sunak, told us the truth.
There’s been lots of chatter in the last 48 hours about Sunak wanting to raise corporation tax. Both the Sunday Times and the Times have carried stories to this effect.
This is yesterday’s Times on the matter with a story headlined ‘Sunak wants corporation tax rise to control debt’:
‘A government source said that the success of the vaccination programme meant that tax rises were more likely in the March 3 budget. “There is likely to be some form of consolidation,” the source said. “All this expenditure needs to be paid for. It’s a point of principle and fairness”.’
So an anonymous source (they’re always anonymous) thinks that Britain’s most economically productive people should be paying more in taxes because the vaccination programme has been such a hit and it’s only ‘fair’ that they fund it. This source is so ‘principled’ that he or she is not even prepared to be identified with the scheme.
It hasn’t gone down well. John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘You couldn’t pick a worse time to be whacking up business taxes.
‘With the economy on its knees and millions facing unemployment, hammering Britain’s big employers would be madness. Taxpayers will never forgive Rishi if he wrecks the recovery before it’s even begun.’
Put aside all arguments about Covid recovery for a minute. Also put aside the fact that Sunak is married to an heiress and will not have to worry about money for as long as he lives. Let’s just think about the logic of this idea.
First, it is only right to ask: what, exactly, has the general population been paying tax for over the last ten months that we’ve been locked in this nightmare? For much of that time, we’ve been paying for roads which we aren’t allowed to use; an NHS which we aren’t allowed to access unless we have Covid, and schools which are closed. This counts as a total and utter rip-off.
Second, does Sunak not see the inherent absurdity of corporation tax payers being at the back of the queue when it comes to receiving the vaccine but being at the front of the queue for tax rises?
Does he really believe that it is ‘a point of principle and fairness’ to clobber the business owners and the risk-takers (most of whom are under 60) to pay for an inoculation which most of them won’t receive for weeks or months because the elderly and unwell – the economically inactive – have been given priority?
Should it not be the other way around if he really sees vaccination as the route out of the country’s lockdown misery?
We keep being told how clever Sunak is. I don’t see it.
It’s time for the journalist James Forsyth – who also writes a column in the Times – to reveal the truth about Sunak’s plans. Forsyth and Sunak are close friends. They attended Winchester College together in the 1990s. Sunak was best man at Forsyth’s wedding and they are godparents to each other’s children. In April 2020, Sunak hired Forsyth’s wife, Allegra Stratton, to be his media chief (though it’s not clear if this job was ever advertised and I don’t remember any of the above being declared publicly). Since then she has moved on to be No 10 press secretary.
In short, Forsyth knows or can find out exactly what’s going on.
If Sunak and his anonymous collaborators are not willing to go on the record, Forsyth has a duty to reveal the truth so that a proper debate can be held. If he doesn’t do this, he is as bad as his friend Rishi.