David Maddox: MP’s tax haven shares a boon for SNP

Margaret Hodge. Picture: PA
Margaret Hodge. Picture: PA
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Sometimes it is hard not to feel sorry for Ed Miliband. The Labour leader already has the near impossible task of making his party look like one of government while at the same time tackling the SNP, Greens and Plaid seriously outflanking him on his left.

So he came up with a plan to attack the “posh boys” and “millionaires” in the Tories and even came up with the wheeze of ending the tax dodging non dom status to rake in cash from the super rich.

Given the polling evidence in Scotland, his efforts were not exactly working well anyway but then came along the revelations of a senior Labour MP having £1.5 million locked away in a tax haven.

The senior Labour figure in question is no ordinary MP. It is Margaret Hodge, the extremely wealthy MP for Barking – an almost equally extremely impoverished borough in London – who on top of all this was chairwoman of the powerful public accounts committee.

Ms Hodge made a name for herself in the last five years by, among other things, haranguing the bosses of big firms like Google, Amazon and Starbucks for – you guessed it – legally avoiding paying tax on their earnings.

Now Ms Hodge has said she did not personally benefit from the shares in the tax haven and was not responsible for them being moved there. It’s an explanation which will not be greeted with much sympathy.

The whole story seems to sum up the view that many people have of politicians that they have hypocritical double standards and are in it for themselves.

This may not be a fair summary of Ms Hodge but the revelation could not come at a worse moment for her party. In England, Labour is still shedding support to the so called “anti-politics” parties including the Greens but even more to Ukip. In Scotland the view of Westminster corruption is almost certainly driving former Labour voters in their many thousands to the SNP.

One cybernat – now an SNP candidate – summed it up in his Paco McSheepie Twitter account saying “Westminster attracts the vile and the greedy.”

He is wrong but stories like Hodge’s make it hard to argue against. One Scottish Labour MP, who still is in with a chance, said: “The trouble is that we are still hemorrhaging support every single day.”

Ms Hodge’s story will have done little for MPs who do not have personal fortunes and are fighting for their political lives. Ms Hodge’s seat is completely safe. So she will continue to enjoy wealth and power while potentially helping to finish off the chances of some of her colleagues.