As someone who still entertains hope of becoming a member of Parliament one day, I’d better come clean about my own tax affairs. It’s a torrid tale, as you’d expect, but rather than wait for my political opponents to winkle the story out of me bit by bit, I thought I’d get it all out in the open.
I blame the Cub Scouts for starting me on the wrong path. As a boy of eight, I was an eager participant in bob-a-job week, which involved going from door to door on my street offering to do odd jobs. I turned all the money over to my Cub pack, but I realised I could earn extra pocket money from then on by washing cars and weeding gardens. Before long, I’d earned enough money to buy my own portable black-and-white tele-vision — about £40, if I recall. But reader, I have a confession to make: I didn’t declare that income to the taxman.
It was all downhill from there.
On a school journey to Brussels aged 14, I persuaded an older gentle-man to buy 200 More Menthols for me in duty-free and then sold them, one cigarette at a time, to my schoolmates at a 100 per cent mark-up. Did I hand over the tax I would have paid if I’d bought them in the corner shop? Did I hell. This was in spite of the fact that the bicycle shed I sold them behind at King Edward VI Comprehensive School in Totnes had been paid for by the taxpayer. Typical Tory hypocrite, eh? Profiting from the infrastructure built with the taxes of hard-working families while not paying any tax myself!
When I was 26, my father gave me £20,000 to put down as a deposit on a flat in Shepherd’s Bush and — a shocking dereliction of duty, this — I didn’t inquire where the money had come from.