We share our political path with our families – the Sunaks have been, at best, astonishingly naive – Christine Jardine


Whether it is simply a nasty comment about you from an opponent on social media or an in depth expose of a past mistake, the spotlight that you have chosen can be emotionally draining for those around you.

They can also find that suddenly some teenage prank or youthful indiscretion of their own can come back to haunt you both.

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A quick scan of media coverage from any recent year would suggest that it is wise for aspiring politicians to sit down and discuss the implications of success with family before they put their name on a ballot paper.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak alongside his wife Akshata Murthy. PIC: Ian West/PA.

Make sure that anything which could prompt questions is laid bare in advance.

Openness and transparency are key.

This past week it has been difficult to avoid the conclusion that those implications were not fully appreciated by the Sunak household. Perhaps it is yet more evidence of how out of touch with us this Government is.

Or the kindest interpretation could be that it was simply astonishing political naivety.

But surely the Chancellor should have anticipated that the British public might expect everyone in his household to be paying their fair share of the tax burden needed to meet the costs of the economic policies he is laying down?

That is not to suggest for an instant that either he or his wife have done anything illegal or even legally questionable.

‘Non-dom’ status is granted to people whose permanent home, or domicile, is outside of the UK.

While they must pay UK tax on UK earnings they do not need to pay normal UK tax on foreign income or gains and instead are only liable for an annual charge known as a “remittance charge”.

The issue is simply whether the Chancellor’s judgment in not making it clear from the get-go that his wife had chosen non-dom status was the correct one.

And there can be no question about whether the public has the right to ask that question.

It is after all the tax-payer who both pays all MPs’ salaries and by extension our household bills, and meets the cost of the economic policies the Chancellor of the Exchequer dictates.

Far too many of those taxpayers have for the past few weeks and months, and a time to come which we cannot yet calculate, struggled to cope with the burden that his policies have placed on their household finances.

The combination of the government’s hike in taxes, inflation and skyrocketing energy prices is challenging most of us.

On the doorsteps at the moment the feeling that this Government is not aware of the reality of life for most voters is coming across loud and clear.

If they are to change that perception they will have to take a different approach not just in their policies but in how they present them. And themselves.

Which is why the claim this week that the discussion of his wife’s tax status was simply an attempt to smear the Chancellor’s reputation was to completely miss the point.

Nor was it well received, either by the opposition politicians he was criticizing or by his own officials, some of whom have stated publicly that they were uncomfortable at not knowing the Chancellor’s full circumstances when making decisions.

It is not beyond the imagination that the tax-status of someone in the household of Chancellor, or indeed minister, could create a potential conflict of interest when determining tax policies for the coming year.

And not just domestically.

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Decisions like the one to oppose President Joe Biden’s proposals for international corporation tax could be called into question if any minister had a financial interest in any company which stood to gain or lose out as a result.

That is why transparency is so important. And trust.

It is also why both MPs and peers are prohibited from having non-dom tax status by the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act.

And why this week I called for the same restriction to be extended to the spouses and partners of MPs and Peers.

Government ministers have a duty to do what is morally right and when they change people’s taxes, they and their immediate families should play by the same rules as everybody else.

The Chancellor’s household should be no different to the millions of UK households who now face the highest tax burdens in decades.

Rishi Sunak must take immediate action to close the loophole which currently leaves the door open for government ministers to exploit non-dom arrangements.

New rules should certainly include reliefs for cases where Ministers’ partners are nationals of countries that do not have double taxation agreement with the UK and have particularly inflexible tax rules.

But the need for action to reassure is clear.

When politicians stand up in the Commons and ask us to pay more tax, or cope with higher energy bills with little support, we must be able to trust that their decision serves us and only us.

To ask our elected representatives to meet that standard, and open themselves to scrutiny in ensuring it is entirely reasonable.

There are times when we all make mistakes or errors of judgement. Sometimes they are costly.

But always the best course of action, perhaps the only acceptable one, is to acknowledge the error and act on it.

The political path is one that we share with our families in so many ways. We can best serve both them and the public by remembering that.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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