Today, one of my many news-digest mailing lists informed me that
"Peter Hargreaves has soared 46 places on The Sunday Times Rich List, placing him ahead of musical maestro Andrew Lloyd Webber, Lord Alan Sugar and Easyjet's Sir Stelios Haji-Ionannu."
Peter Hargreaves, I thought. Why does that name ring a bell? Oh yes, it's because back in February, I posted an immoderate rant about an article he wrote which suggested that the government wasn't nearly serious enough about cutting spending and that, if you were filthy rich, the only morally responsible thing left for you to do was furiously avoid paying your taxes.
Peter Hargreaves is now the 65th richest person in the United Kingdom. Peter Hargreaves is a billionaire. Peter Hargreaves' tax bill is probably within the same order of magnitude as the cost of some of the vital public services people are battling to save - my local library, for example. Basically, the amount of tax Peter Hargreaves pays has a not-entirely-negligible impact on the deficit.
Peter Hargreaves does not believe the deficit isn't an issue. On the contrary, he believes it's an enormous issue. Clearly, for every billionaire who pays less tax, the government has a bigger gap to plug, which means harsher spending cuts. So by endorsing tax avoidance, Peter Hargreaves is effectively saying he thinks that money is much better off stashed in his bank account than paying for services for the poor and vulnerable. Not only that, he presumes to moralise on the matter. Is it just me, or is that utterly grotesque?
(Incidentally, Stephen Lansdown, Hargreaves' partner at Hargreaves Lansdown brokers, comes in at a mere number 90 on the rich list, with a piffling £750m personal fortune. Amateur.)