Wednesday, March 03, 2010

The Ashcroft Affair: what did William Hague know?

Of course, whilst one might argue that Lord Ashcroft has merely taken advantage of the loophole left for him, there is one person who can provide a clearer idea of what was intended. And, dear reader, that person would be William Hague. Yes, you remember, the Conservative leader who pushed hard for a peerage for his biggest donor, the man who now allows said donor to accompany him on foreign trips.

It was he would claimed that the then Michael Ashcroft would pay tens of millions in additional tax in fulfilling his obligations under the agreement. It was he whose Chief Whip is alleged to have played a key role in watering down the pledge made in writing to Lord Thomson of Monifieth. Clearly, he had either been misled, or he knew what was happening. Neither option is terribly good for his reputation, or that of Lord Ashcroft. Indeed, as The Times put it this morning,

"Even if the peer did not originally intend to deceive, there can be little doubt that he allowed a deceit to develop. Moreover, he was content not to correct it."

So, the simple questions for William Hague to answer are, "Did you believe, as a result of his commitment, that all of Michael Ashcroft's income would be declarable to, and taxable by, the Inland Revenue? And if not, what did you believe?".

From the perspective of most people, the actual facts are, I suspect unimportant, although my workmates, none of whom are particularly political, are beginning to get the idea into their heads (unbidden by me, I might add) that the Conservatives are a bit evasive and sleazy. And, as I've noted in the past, credibility is hard earned and easily squandered.

So, whilst my Conservative friends spin away, raising the issue of other political parties and their income from non-domiciles, only one such person has made a commitment, possibly dodged it, and gained a peerage as a result. So, would William Hague like to step up to the bar of public opinion and answer a few legitimate questions?...

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