David Blackburn

Ashcroft returns fire but the ‘scandal’ rolls on

Ashcroft returns fire but the ‘scandal’ rolls on
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Lord Ashcroft looks like a man not to cross and he will do anything to protect his privacy. He faces down criticism with complete silence, patient before turning on his detractors. According to the Sunday Times, Ashcroft has attacked Labour over its ‘smears’ about his tax status. His tone is derisive but his intention is clear: back off.

He has obtained documents held by the Labour party, detailing its strategy to expose Ashcroft. One activist wrote: ‘Think the Guardian most likely to go for it.’ Smart chaps these Labour wonks. Sure enough, the front page of the Observer trails an interview with Eric Pickles, who is ‘frustrated’ by his deputy’s obfuscation.  Reading Pickles’ comments, the alleged frustration is elusive. Pickles does not know Lord Ashcroft’s status and believes that Ashcroft has a right to privacy. No change there then and none from Ashcroft, who reiterated his promise to pay full UK tax if the law changes, which suggests that Sir George Young did not “misspeak” under the pressure of Emily Maitliss’ delightful interview technique.

This story of furtive wealth, and its connotation of affluence for influence, becomes increasingly absurd. It does not matter; even if Ashcroft confirmed the wide suspicion that he was a ‘Non-Dom’ he would not have transgressed existing rules. But his inscrutability is an amphetamine for those whose pious hearts are easily outraged. Will next Sunday’s Observer front page carry a headline bearing the words Ashcroft, tax and scandal? As ‘the Duke’ might have said: you can bet your sweet life it will.