Martin Vander Weyer Martin Vander Weyer

Let’s refocus the Panama story on the bad stuff that really matters

Also in Any Other Business: footballers’ taxes; care homes’ wages; negative interest rates

There were moments last week when I was ready to give up journalism and retrain in a less unsavoury profession — chiropody, perhaps. It might have been Jon Snow’s bushwhacking of arts minister Ed Vaizey on the subject of the prime minister’s tax affairs, or Snow’s colleague Cathy Newman shrieking questions about offshore companies at Boris Johnson as she chased him in the street. Or one of dozens of reports and articles oozing malice, self–righteousness, hypocrisy and wilful ignorance of the distinction between tax planning as practised by anyone with a sense of obligation to provide for their family and the dirty business of hiding ill-gotten gains.

This being open season on long-dead churchmen (see Charles Moore passim), shouldn’t we know whether the late Bishop George Snow of Whitby, father of Jon, benefited from a pension fund that contained investments whose domiciles were offshore? Anyone — columnist, broadcaster, lawyer turned Labour MP — who has a nest egg or modest inheritance held in a standard managed portfolio will find at least a quarter of it is in fund products registered in Luxembourg, Dublin or other places offering nifty tax breaks.

And it’s no sin; for people who pay all taxes legitimately demanded, it’s a way of making what’s left of their money work a little harder in a world of miserable investment returns. So, inky brethren, let us re-focus the Panama story on dictators’ loot and untraceable bearer shares and other bad stuff that matters, and suppress the urge to damage ‘Dodgy Dave’ just because we can.

Come clean, Wayne

But while we’re on the subject, what about footballers? That’s a question often put up by bankers accused of being overpaid, but the comparison works as well with politicians. Cameron’s tenure at the top has coincided with that of Wayne Rooney, a role model for millions who is said to earn more in a week than the Prime Minister earns in a year: Cameron’s tax rate turns out to be 38 per cent, but what’s Wayne’s?

More broadly, the annual wage bill for the Premier League is £1.9

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