Posted by: davidjmarlow | 22/07/2012

Learning to relax on Sunday…for someone who finds it hard to switch off…

Unfortunately, Howard (see ‘Has it really come to this’, April 2012) fell out badly with Marston’s pub company and left the Red Lion about six weeks ago. My Sunday morning walk, therefore, is now a +/-3 mile stroll with the customary reward at an alternative hostelry to follow. This morning, as I supped my first sips of IPA in these less familiar surroundings, and with none of ‘my locals’ present, I turned to my Twitter feed on the Blackberry.

First up was an amazing report from the Tax Justice Network – ‘Estimating the price of offshore’. This reputable, credible report, on the size of amounts placed by rich businesses and individuals in offshore tax havens, concludes that $21 trillion has been placed in these jurisdictions – with $9.8 trillion accounted for by around 91,000 individuals (therefore at around an average $106 million each). Had these (mind-boggling) amounts been deposited in, say, the UK, at 3% interest p.a., and the interest taxed at 30% (i.e. well below the maximum personal income tax rate of 45%) , they would have produced $189 billion of tax receipts last year. This is roughly the amount of total 2011/12 UK public sector borrowing, and more than double the annual benefits bill net of pensions. As I finished my first pint, I mulled over the relative effort and profile Osborne gives to tax havens – many of which are under the/his control of the British Crown (e.g. Channel Islands, Isle of Man, Cayman etc) – compared to government’s preoccupation with dismantling the support to working age benefits claimants.

For the second IPA, I turned my attention to the TV in the pub. This was showing the final round of the British Golf Open at Lytham. I did a piece on the Open at Sandwich last year, and it struck me that, just as Sandwich 2011 was a wonderful spectacle, it was partially blighted by the local Pfizer closures. So Lytham 2012’s ‘success’ is at least partially overshadowed by the changes at BAe Warton, just down the road. Warton’s highly skilled and productive workforce was threatened by reductions in UK defence expenditure in 2011 – leading to creation of an Enterprise Zone (i.e. tax breaks) on and adjacent to the site.

Is this an allegory for UK plc? Both Sandwich and Lytham/Warton – Pfizer and BAe – announce major manufacturing employment reductions; the areas host golf opens – comprising a multitude of high net worth individuals, many of whom take advantage of tax havens; and government creates an Enterprise Zone to ensure such tax benefits are extended to shareholders and other investors in these manufacturing companies!

The Open coverage moved to an interview with ‘McDowell’s father’. I had no idea whom this man was. My first thought was he might be the dad of Roddy McDowall – a British actor whom I best remember for his roles in four ‘Planet of the Apes’ films. I love both the original book – Monkey Planet – and the first film in which McDowall stars.  Both the book and the film are striking critiques of human complacency and our consequential self-destruction. The problem with one and half pints of IPA on an empty stomach, are that I only latterly realised Roddy had a differently-spelt surname from the individual being interviewed!

My second McDowell possibility, therefore, was that this individual might be the dad of Malcolm McDowell. His portrayal of the sociopath in ‘A Clockwork Orange’ is one of the iconic performances in one of the iconic films of the 20th century, and one whose alienation, societal breakdown, and authoritarian governmental response certainly still resonates today.

As the interview progressed, though, and as I moved to my third pint, I realised this man was the father of Graeme McDowell – the 2010 US Open champion, and a European Ryder Cup Team member. This was a huge pity – because whilst I presume either Roddy McDowall or Malcolm McDowell’s dads might have had something bizarrely ‘left field’ to say about the Open, Graeme’s dad could only mumble platitudes about how Graeme was hoping to put in a good shift to challenge for the title today.

 

Back on the twitter feed, my attention was caught by an excellent article from Andrew Rawnsley on the Olympics. Andrew swiftly unpicks the claims that the Olympics will make us either fitter, wealthier or happier. I suppose his only consolation – if he has read his newspaper’s report on the tax haven scandal – is that the Games will only cost the UK taxpayer £10 billion – or 0.05% of the amounts companies and businesses are hiding away in the aforementioned jurisdictions.

I was by now pretty chilled and on my third pint. So it was with a broad grin that I settled on my final twitter feed. I love Rutland dearly. It is a wonderful county that manages to showcase rural England in a manner far removed from the stereotypical images of London’s financial sector and its rather sordid offshore linkages; or from the ‘Monkey Planets’ of alienation and self-destruction; and even from the  manicured golf opens abutting the remnants of our high tech industrial traditions. A wonderful county….but it still has its problems…!!!!

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