Westminster stage descends into farce

City A.M.
Follow City
UK Inland Revenue Online Tax Return
Who knew a tax return could be the source of so much fun? (Source: Getty)

They say politics is show business for ugly people, in which case the current production in Westminster is most certainly a farce. Indeed, it could even be a pantomime.

The central villain is the Prime Minister – dubbed “Dodgy Dave” by left-wing bore, Dennis Skinner MP. (The old socialist was kicked out of the Commons by Speaker John Bercow for refusing to withdraw the remark).

Meanwhile, hero of the people – Jeremy Corbyn – is determined to whip the townsfolk into a frenzy over the PM's family background, his inheritance, his temerity to own shares and his outrageous assertion that “wealth isn't a dirty word.”

The main comic device in this over-egged tragicomedy is the flourishing of tax returns. Westminster hasn't seen this before, and to be fair it's proving to be quite entertaining. Having demanded that everyone Cameron has ever met publish their tax returns, Jeremy Corbyn vowed to release his. Unfortunately, he couldn't find it.

When it was finally published, much later than planned, it revealed several important pieces of information. We learnt, for example, that the Leader of the Opposition has terrible handwriting. We also learnt that he appeared to make a cheeky £500 from answering survey questions.

Just picture the scene as his landline rings: “Hello? Yes, certainly I have a few minutes to talk about my shopping habits.” Fresh laughs were provided by news that he filed his returns late and was fined £100.

The final comic revelation was that Corbyn takes home less than George Osborne paid in tax last year. Yes, the chancellor published his tax returns as well – outing himself as another dastardly holder of shares.

Acts 3 and 4 of this comedy of errors consisted of lesser political figures rushing out their returns, too. Nicola Sturgeon obliged, as did several Welsh party leaders. London Labour MP Chuka Umunna also published his, though nobody asked him to.

UKIP's Nigel Farage, meanwhile, is having none of it. When asked by Radio 4 whether he'd join this new wave of transparency the MEP said “The answer from me is a big no.”

So there we have it. Quite a day. Quite a production. It hasn't got us any closer to tackling global tax evasion, money laundering or illicit money trails, but it certainly raised a few laughs.

Related articles