I’ve been trying, I really have, to give a damn about the fact that Paul Burrell, former butler to the late Diana, Princess of Wales, may have some shares in an offshore trust based in the British Virgin Islands called Black Dragon.
But I’m afraid I find myself caring as much as I do about the news that martial arts movie star Jackie Chan has holdings in offshore companies including one called Jumbo Jaz investment. Or that Simon Cowell, various sports stars and someone from FIFA also use such vehicles to stash some of their loot.
Which is about as much as I care about, I don’t know, the Lithuanian shoe polish industry, maybe. No, I exaggerate. Not that much.
As for the revelations that these secretive, tax avoidance schemes are also favoured by associates of Vladimir Putin, deposed Iraqi ministers from the Saddam era, Chinese nomenklatura, bank robbers, and lots and lots of Nigerians, well, colour me surprised.
Couldn’t the International Consortium of International Journalists, which grabbed this alleged super-scoop, have saved itself and us an awful lot of bother and just run the headline: “Official: Bears Shit In Woods. Now we LIST the species that do so”?
So some bloke we’d never heard of from Iceland has resigned. Like we care.
What we should care about very much though, I think, is the way that this story is being a manipulated to a particular end by politicians and the left-leaning media.
(A left-wing media which, incidentally, is quite massively hypocritical on this issue. Not only are numerous leftie bigwigs assiduous tax avoiders, but so is the Guardian newspaper, as I discuss here with my friend Toby Young, who has a hilarious anecdote to relate)
Look at Bernie Sanders. There’s talk – hideous, terrifying talk – that Panama may be just the thing he needs to propel him into the White House. Not only is Hillary personally compromised. (Again). But it plays, perfectly, to that notion Socialists like Sanders are obsessed with these days: that there’s a corrupt, uncontrollable elite who can only brought to account by a good old fashioned dose of the kind of hard-left politics which worked so well for Cuba, Albania and the USSR.
Look at Jeremy Corbyn. The Labour leader hasn’t got this big in his trousers about a front page news story, I imagine, since Margaret Thatcher died.
At last, Corbyn has found a foreign policy mission worth really fighting for. No, not the nuclear deterrent – which he wants to scrap. Not ISIS, whose terrorists he thinks shouldn’t be shot under any circumstances on British streets and who at least one of his party comrades thinks should best be won over by friendly cups of tea.
No, instead Corbyn has seized this opportunity to declare war on the British Virgin Islands and any other British overseas territories and crown dependencies which earn their bulk of their living as tax havens.
Yeah! That’ll show them! That’s what Britain really needs in a prospective leader: someone who’s not afraid peevishly to ruin the livelihoods of people in far off places while making not a smidgen of a difference to the lives of anyone in Britain.
And instead of calling this bearded Trotskyite Islamist-suck-up on his pettifogging vindictiveness, Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne are busy meekly agreeing with the tenor of his argument: that international tax avoidance really is the most terrible thing and that more needs to be done to stamp it out.
Well they’ve got no choice, have they? Both are very rich men who’ve spent their entire political careers assiduously pretending not to be rich in order not to stoke the resentment of the proles.
Both, it appears, may have family connections to tax shelters similar to the ones they’re now being asked to condemn in parliament. I don’t expect there’s any major scandal to come out here but for me that’s not the thing we should be scandalised by here, anyway.
Here’s the thing that should most disgust us about this overblown story: it is just another power grab by the global governing elite.
Yeah, sure it’s disgusting that kleptocrat dictators and other low lives are leeching their people’s resources and stashing their cash in secret vaults, and if we help their people get the money back and then send the dictators back home to be lynched, then sure, that would be poetic.
But this stuff is a distraction. A side show. It’s going to do nothing to make our own lives better or solve the world’s most serious problems.
And the world’s most serious problem – one of the the most serious, at any rate – is this: governments are trying each year to take more and more of our money and spend it either on ever more pointless crap – like David Cameron’s ring-fenced foreign aid budget – or on expanding the role of government generally.
Not even Ronald Reagan could stop this government expansion. When sovereign nations like the US try it on, it’s dangerous enough. But when the leaders of all the world’s countries start making noises about ensuring that no one, ever again, can hide their money from the grasping claws of the state, well that’s when you really need to start worrying because it brings the One World Government so dearly beloved by the Communitarian left one step closer.
There’s a basic truth about tax which our global elite seems determined to ignore. If you keep it low enough and fair enough, nobody tries to avoid it.
How many magnates from Hong Kong are on the Panama naughty list? None, I’d guess. When the tax rate is as low as 10 per cent, it’s just not worth the hassle of not paying it.