SIR Keir Starmer and other Labour leaders, including notably the shadow attorney general, Emily Thornberry, who targeted Rishi Sunak and his wife, Akshata Murty, over her tax arrangements, have been made to look utterly foolish by Lord Geidt, the prime minister’s adviser on ministerial interests.
After investigating whether the chancellor had broken the ministerial code or faced a conflict of interest because his wife was a non-dom, Geidt, a former private secretary to the Queen, concluded: “I advise that the requirements of the ministerial code have been adhered to by the chancellor, and that he has been assiduous in meeting his obligations and in engaging with this investigation. In reaching these judgments, I am confined to the question of conflicts of interest and the requirements of the ministerial code. My role does not touch on any wider question of the merits of such interests or arrangements.”
At the very least, Thornberry owes Sunak an abject apology. In an interview on Radio 4’s Today programme with Nick Robinson, she alleged “the chancellor didn’t declare it properly. It is in the ministerial code, that the status of your spouse, the financial circumstances of your spouse, are relevant. And the reason is because there can be a conflict of interest.”
She added: “We also want to know, to what extent his family have benefited from the positive choice that his wife made.”
Sunak’s wife would have been liable to pay taxes on any of her Infosys earnings brought into the UK from India. The rules on non-doms have been around for 200 years and been maintained by Labour and Tory governments alike because they are thought to benefit the UK by attracting investors.
Asked if she was claiming that Murty was a tax dodger, Thornberry rowed back: “I’m not saying she’s is a tax dodger. I’m saying that what she’s doing is legal. But I’m asking you a question about whether it’s morally right. Whether it’s actually just whether the chancellor who’s asking the rest of us to make sacrifices, he’s putting up taxes in order to be able to bail him out of some of the messes that he’s made for this country.”
Most people think that the chancellor did rather well in looking after ordinary people during the pandemic. The question really is whether Labour’s personal attacks on Sunak and his wife are “morally right”.
“Labour reacted with fury after Rishi Sunak was cleared of wrongdoing over his personal tax affairs and those of his non-dom wife,” the Daily Mail has reported.
Labour is the party which gave independence to India 75 years ago. To be sure, the opposition must hold the government to account. But what has happened to a once great movement is rather sad. It might be much simpler if Labour now renames itself the “Anti-Indian Party”.