A Tale of Two Tories: Johnson and Osborne Battle Over Google’s Lax Tax Arrangements

Google’s announcement that they will pay £130 million in tax that they have owed from the past 7 years has confirmed many things; the Chancellor’s announcement that our deal with Google is a “major success” is just spin at its most mediocre, big companies who want to take a lax tax policy will take one, and the government, it seems, are fine with that. Perhaps the most significant development is that the Tory leadership has now truly begun.

When Boris Johnson began to write his column for the Daily Telegraph, he could have picked a number of enemies. Perhaps he could have taken moral opposition against the social media giant, whose taxes are needed in full at a time of austerity. However, the Mayor of London pointed out, admittedly correctly, that Google have not broken any laws. After all, there is a reason why they can pick and choose what, if any, they decide to give us.

He wrote:  “Everyone is complaining that it isn’t enough, that it still amounts to a tax rate of only about 2 per cent on earnings.

“It is absurd to blame the company for ‘not paying their taxes’. You might as well blame a shark for eating seals. It is the nature of the beast; and not only is it the nature of the beast - it is the law it is the fiduciary duty of their finance directors to minimise tax exposure.”

it appears that time has caught up with the chancellor

Most tellingly, however, Mr Johnson said that while it would be a “good thing” if companies paid more tax, the government is to blame for structuring the tax system as it had done. While Bo Jo’s tax policies seem flawed - he argued that EU member states should be in “competition” with each other to offer firms the lowest corporate tax rates - this was his way of firing the starter pistol in the race to become Conservative leader.

For George Osborne, the whispers coming from Johnson’s camp will have been worrying. It was first suggested that he would oppose the Chancellor’s planned tax credit cuts, and that he would need to be offered a senior cabinet office role to stay in line with the Governments pro-EU referendum stance. So maybe it was only a matter of time before he started to attack the Government’s record.

Osborne’s reputation has plummeted since May’s general election. Despite the evidence suggesting otherwise, he was seen by the vast electorate as an economic guru who saved the country. But it appears that time has caught up with the chancellor. After 5 years of austerity, the public seems to be asking why we are still living in austere times, and this was potentially the key factor behind his supposedly “anti-austerity” November budget.

For Johnson, however, the sun is shining and the birds are still chirping. The former editor of the Spectator was an outsider in the 2008 mayoral election, but he emphatically defeated Ken Livingstone and was able to resonate with a London electorate strictly anti-Tory. His rise is often punctuated by those bumbling yet charmingly comical appearances as host of Have I Got News for You. There’s no doubt that the man is unique.

a significant part of the electorate is no longer satisfied by continuity

All of these factors suggest the man should be the outsider in the Tory leadership race. But considering everything, he’s certainly worth a punt, especially when the shape of the Conservative party is set to change drastically. The date of the EU referendum has not even been decided, yet the outcome will be astonishingly significant for the Tories. If Britain votes to opt out the EU, a still newly appointed Prime Minister will be required to inspire the country in unfamiliar waters. Yet if the electorate votes to remain in the EU, the Conservatives will need a leader who can promise change when a significant amount of population will be disappointed by our continued EU membership.

David Cameron’s legacy, for better or worse, will be decided by the referendum. Yet, even if he doesn’t get the result he wants, he will still be the Prime Minister who ousted New Labour and then achieved an unlikely Conservative majority in last year’s General Election. His persona may appear to be the complete contrast of Boris Johnson’s, but both possess the ability to persuade non-traditional Tory voters.  

Meanwhile, politics has changed. Corbyn, UKIP, and the fall of the Lib Dems shows that the a significant part of the electorate is no longer satisfied by continuity; Scotland got the ball rolling as the SNP’s progress reflects a complete dissidence to the government coming from north of the border. Would an EU referendum have seemed possible just a few years ago? Britain just keeps pushing for change.

A victory for Johnson would certainly seem to signal a departure from PR politics. He comes across as unashamedly true to his principles and is unflappable in interviews. And let’s face it; who wouldn’t get a kick out of seeing the man face the opposition in PMQ’s? Of course, nothing yet is decided, but regardless of the outcome, a leader the country can trust will be needed, and this will undoubtedly decide who our next Prime Minister will be.

 Will Rogers

More about the author

About the author

Will is a journalism student and a blogger/writer with a passion for politics and our society. He covers many major political events and frequently writes about the political figures who inspire or infuriate us. He is currently doing his dissertation on opinion discourse in the media, which inspired him to share some of his own opinions with Disclaimer and other publications.

Follow Will on Twitter.

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