This week The Times ran a front page story about tax evasion with a large picture of comedian Jimmy Carr. The story was concerned with his tax affairs in great detail. He has subsequently gone public with a statement confirming he has amended his tax regime.
Next day another front page story about the band Take That followed again the third day with a front page story about the film industry and further tax avoidance schemes.
The ensuing feeding frenzy has debated the legal versus the moral position with the Prime Minister saying Jimmy Carr was engaged in “straightforward tax avoidance” plus further negative personal comment. I’m not going to argue the case either way as it is complex and the muddy waters of whether these schemes are legal or not is for other, better informed people to debate.
I’ve been to a recording today at the BBC of Radio 4’s ‘The Now Show’ and Jimmy Carr was the butt of several jokes and one well known performer said to me afterwards ‘Jimmy will be furious but it is going to run and run’. So that’s a another national programme going out pouring more petrol on the fire.
What I don’t get is a) why is NewsCorp leading with this story and b) why pick on particular individuals? I’m beginning to wonder if Jimmy Carr has made jokes about the Murdoch’s and this is his punishment. I think it is highly questionable to finger one person when he is one of many high net worths working with clever, highly paid accountants and lawyers. It reads to me like a vendetta based on a moral, philosophical platform even though the loopholes in government legislation leaves legal doors open to smart tax management. Surely Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne should be apologising for not doing their jobs thoroughly rather than Mr Carr?
Jimmy Carr is a ‘brand’ and this coverage is bound to harm his brand; it is inevitable a proportion of the public won’t read the detail, or understand the complex arguments and have him down as a tax cheat. Mud sticks as Ken Dodd discovered.
As far as NewsCorp is concerned I feel this coverage is below the belt, in particular given their ex-CEO is up for trial for perverting the course of justice. I’ve been a life long Times reader but as of tomorrow I’m shifting to another broadsheet as I sense something unpleasant behind this; in my opinion I really do think Jimmy Carr has been nailed to the NewsCorp cross. I’d love to find out why – maybe another court case in the offing?