Britain has given many wonderful things to the world – Stephen Fry, Parliament, Marmite, Shakespeare, rugby football, cricket. However, the most important is the rule of law. This is because it incorporates so many other British virtues: fairness, decency, a truculent belief in the underdog and a bloody-minded refusal to give in to arbitrary power of any kind.
That is why at first sight we should wholeheartedly applaud the decision to mark the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta, that superlative landmark in the evolution of the British state, with an event at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre at Westminster next month.
Blackstone would certainly have been perplexed by Saunderson House, “a leading firm of independent wealth managers providing award-winning advice to busy professionals and other high net-worth individuals”. RSM International, which advises companies on how to avoid tax, is another sponsor. RSM’s presence is not just inexplicable. It is inexcusable.
Actually, Magna Carta came about partly because the barons were angry about increased taxation: so it is entirely appropriate for wealth management and tax avoidance firms to be at the event.
Further, the barons of old would have been entirely shocked at the level of taxation currently levied on the population of England—and they would be utterly contemptuous of our placid acceptance of such outright theft.
So the real point is that, if we are truly going to celebrate what Magna Carta was about, it is entirely appropriate that firms such as RSM International be there.
What is utterly inexcusable is that the Coalition—or any modern government—should have anything to do with it. This government, particularly, is one that not only endorses levels of taxation that the barons would have already rebelled about, but also that has undermined the rule of law—through the destruction of Legal Aid, and other measures (such as allowing HMRC to steal your money before they have even confirmed that you owe it).
Oborne is correct about the rampant hypocrisy on display, but largely wrong about the targets and the reasons. The truly inexcusable thing is that the government takes 40% of everything that we earn, and pisses it up the wall.
The barons would have rebelled many years ago—why haven't we?