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Angela Rayner is getting a taste of her own medicine

When did party politics become all about snitching and arguing over tax returns?

Lauren Smith

Topics Politics UK

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The sale of Angela Rayner’s semi-detached house in Stockport continues to make headlines. Over the weekend, the Mail on Sunday published what it claims is proof that the Labour Party’s deputy leader has committed tax fraud in relation to her old ex-council property, which she sold in 2015.

Rayner bought the house on Vicarage Road in Stockport, Greater Manchester under the right-to-buy scheme back in 2007. Eight years later, she sold it for a profit of £48,500. The source of this alleged scandal comes from information she provided to the electoral roll, claiming that the Vicarage Road property was her primary residence. This meant that she could avoid capital-gains tax on the sale, saving her around £3,500.

The Mail on Sunday, which has been running with the story for weeks, claims that Rayner was in fact living with her husband and children in a house on Lowndes Lane, also in Stockport. Having trawled through Rayner’s social-media posts from the time of the sale, reporters claim that she was living at Lowndes Lane on a much more permanent basis than her electoral-roll info suggested. According to residents who lived on Lowndes Lane around the same time, Rayner was very much a full-time resident there.

Now, while the Mail on Sunday and others are well within their rights to run with this embarrassing story and haul a prominent politician over the coals, I’m sure I’m not the only one who is more than a little unmoved by this saga. Even if Rayner is guilty of some creative tax affairs, and guilty of not being totally truthful with the papers and the public about her house sale, this is hardly Watergate. Calls for her to resign or for party leader Keir Starmer to sack her are wildly overblown.

But this never-ending scandal is partially a mess of Rayner’s own making – and not just because she (allegedly) played it fast and loose with the electoral register. She herself has tried to weaponise people’s tax affairs against them. She went after former Tory minister Nadhim Zahawi last year. She even demanded Zahawi, then party chairman, be sacked, following claims he had paid a penalty to HMRC as part of a settlement over unpaid tax. Rayner also led the charge against prime minister Rishi Sunak’s wife, Akshata Murty, over her infamous ‘non-dom’ tax status – a ‘scandal’ so embarrassing it led the Tories to ‘abolish’ non-doms, while leaving some handy loopholes intact of course.

This sort of thing has been going on for years now, and our politics is no better for it. Politicians’ tax arrangements are now treated as a window into their souls. The more politics has been drained of big visions and competing ideas, and the more the two parties have become politically indistinguishable, the more MPs squabble over their tax returns. This empty moralism has become a substitute for proper political debate.

Perhaps it was inevitable that Rayner would eventually be hoisted by her own petard. It certainly isn’t the first time. Indeed, not only has she and her party gone after the Tories for breaking tax rules, but for breaking Covid lockdown rules, too. She demanded Boris Johnson resign as PM after he was issued with a £50 fine for eating some cake when he shouldn’t have. She even shrilly accused Johnson of presiding over ‘widespread criminality’ in Downing Street. This left her open to allegations of hypocrisy when she and Keir Starmer were found to have enjoyed beers and curry at a miners’ hall in Durham in 2021, during one of the lockdowns.

This is what happens when politics becomes more about tattletaling than proper, substantive discussion. MPs are now desperate to prove themselves to be more moral and upstanding, all while dredging up their opponents’ most minor indiscretions. Now almost any incident of rule-breaking, no matter how minuscule (remember ‘Sealtbeltgate’?), is the stuff of scandal. This prefect behaviour is embarrassing for everyone involved.

After Angela Rayner’s latest taste of her own medicine, we’d do well to stop indulging this snitching behaviour.

Lauren Smith is a staff writer at spiked.

Picture by: Getty.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Topics Politics UK

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