Something odd happened at the Guardian on Monday as the paper’s editorial staff were basking in the glow of their just-published splash about the Panama papers. They were understandably excited, having sat on the revelations for months, and were about to put flesh on the bones of the stories that had broken on Sunday evening about the elaborate tax-avoidance schemes of assorted Tory bigwigs. The Guardian was one of 107 media organisations that had been secretly going through the cache of 11.5 million documents stolen from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca last August and these were the golden nuggets: disclosures guaranteed to cause the government maximum embarrassment and — an added bonus — give a much-needed boost to Jeremy Corbyn. With a bit of luck, the paper’s associate editor Seumas Milne, who is widely disliked on the editorial floor, would remain on secondment to the Labour leader’s office for some time to come.
But even allowing for all that, what happened next was still perplexing. They gave themselves a round of applause. That’s right, the Guardian’s editorial staff put down their cups of fair-trade coffee and started clapping. In their eyes, these revelations about the use of offshore tax shelters by various grandees were a cause for self-congratulation.
Now, I can think of three possible explanations. First, they either didn’t know or had forgotten about the Guardian Media Group’s use of a tax-exempt shell company in the Cayman Islands to avoid paying corporation tax when it sold its 50 per cent holding in Auto Trader to Apax Partners in 2008 (hat tip to Guido Fawkes). Further, they were similarly ignorant about the hundreds of millions GMG has invested in offshore hedge funds over the years. But that seems unlikely.