Emma Watson is the latest celebrity to be exposed in the Panama Papers leaks. Apparently she keeps chunks of her estimated $70 million fortune stashed away in an offshore company in the British Virgin Islands.
Personally, I am more than happy to buy the excuse offered by Watson’s spokesman:
‘Emma (like many high profile individuals) set up an offshore company for the sole purpose of protecting her anonymity and safety. UK companies are required to publicly publish details of their shareholders and therefore do not give her the necessary anonymity required to protect her personal safety, which has been jeopardised in the past owing to such information being publicly available.
Offshore companies do not publish these shareholder details. Emma receives absolutely no tax or monetary advantages from this offshore company whatsoever – only privacy.’
Of course, of course, it’s what we all say to our hugely expensive international tax lawyers: “Don’t, whatever you do, let me gain any financial advantage from this hugely complicated arrangement I’m paying you lots of money to advise me on. I, like, totally hate money which is no use for anything other than buying houses and private jets and Louboutins and Cristal and other cool stuff, so when you hide my income in the British Virgin Islands please make damn sure that as much of it as possible ends with the British government who I’m sure will spend it much more wisely…”
But I do think as a quid pro quo Emma Watson ought to cut us a deal here.
If we’re not going to spit “vile, hypocritical, spoilt, slippery tax-avoiding witch” every time from now on we see her name on a movie poster, then I think the very least Emma Watson owes us in return is to remember who she is, where she came from and why she got all this money.
Emma Watson, you are in the public eye for one reason and one reason only: because in 1999, while you were at one of the world’s most exclusive prep schools – the Dragon School in Oxford – you totally lucked out when a casting director picked you to play Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter movies.
And jolly good you were at too. In the early films, you were by far the best actor in the Hermione/Ron/Harry triangle; in the later ones you blossomed into an attractive young woman, making some of us older viewers suddenly feel a bit awkward and pervy.
No one is begrudging your success as Hermione because, hey, someone had to play the role and you were very good.
Here, though, is what some of us can’t stand: hearing a pampered, mega-rich, and uber-fortunate bastion of privilege lecturing us on inequality.
The reason the “Emma Watson exposed in Panama Papers” is trending right now is not because you’re a woman and not because you’re famous. It’s because you’re a jumped-up mummer talking well above your station about stuff you obviously don’t understand.
So you can look good, remember lines, and say “Wingardium leviosa” with flair and conviction. Well that’s great, poppet.
But in no wise does this mean we ever wanted to hear your ineffably tedious, secondhand opinions on gender equality, or the need for a statue of a suffragette outside the Houses of Parliament – nor do we particularly care to see you at the White House Correspondents Dinner, bigging up arguably the worst president in the entire history of the USA.
Why don’t we? Because you haven’t earned the right to lecture any of us how to behave. You’ve spent pretty much your whole sentient life in a bubble of celebrity, imbibing the half-baked views of other celebrities who all swing left because that’s what you have to do in places like Hollywood and at the BBC if you want to stay a celebrity. No more do you understand the concerns of people in the real world than did Marie Antoinette or Marilyn Monroe.
One thing I can 100 per cent guarantee you’ve never thought about, for example, is that when you’re banging the drum for “gender equality” what you’re also doing is sowing the seeds for more government intervention, a greater regulatory burden and higher costs. If there really were a “pay gap” in the West, then maybe you’d have a point. But there isn’t so you don’t have a point: all you’re doing is making life harder for businesses that want to do business, which ultimately makes it harder for all of us financially.
With your $70 million fortune you can wear these social costs. Not all of us can. So maybe you see now how, when questions arise about the nature of your tax arrangements, it all suddenly becomes very pertinent to your pronouncements on political issues.
No one begrudges actors and models being paid lots of money and avoiding tax. Everyone begrudges politicians being paid lots of money and avoiding tax. See the difference?