James Forsyth

Until Ashcroft is clear about his tax status, the press will make a mountain out of everything he does

Until Ashcroft is clear about his tax status, the press will make a mountain out of everything he does
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I have long thought that the secrecy surrounding Lord Ashcroft’s tax affairs is a strategic liability for the Conservative party. The Conservatives should be able to say if their party vice-chairmen is domiciled in this country for tax purposes. Indeed, openness about this point should be a condition of him holding the position.

The Observer today has a front page story about Ashcroft’s involvement in William Hague’s trip to the US. But even given my concerns about Ashcroft, I fail to see the evidence produced as particularly worrying. We know that Ashcroft has flown members of the shadow Cabinet around before—David Cameron even took a flight back from the 2007 Rugby World Cup final in Paris on an Ashcroft plane. It also doesn’t strike me as particularly shocking that a Tory vice-chairman should attend some meetings on a visit to the US by his party’s foreign affairs spokesman.

Having said that I would be strongly opposed to Ashcroft taking any job in a Tory government until he has clarified his tax status. No one should be sitting in the legislature--let alone serving in the government--unless they are prepared to say that they are resident in this country for tax purposes.