Lord Ashcroft under fire over his tax status

There’s been a double-dose of criticism from the Spectator today for Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft and his refusal to come clean on whether he has kept the promise he made at the time he was made a peer.

As I’ve blogged before (such as here), on being appointed to the House of Lords, Lord Ashcroft promised he would become a UK resident and start paying tax here.

Since getting the peerage (which of course can’t now be removed if he didn’t keep his promise), he has refused to state whether he’s kept his word, journalists who have dug into the story haven’t been able to find evidence that he’s kept his word and whenever asked David Cameron says it’s nothing to do with him mate – except, of course, that if David Cameron was really concerned about politicians keeping their promises he could always remove the Conservative whip from Lord Ashcroft unless he comes clean on what’s been going on.

Now both James Forsyth and Fraser Nelson have spoken out on the Coffee House blog:

Lord Ashcroft’s tax status … is a huge strategic liability – and one that a half competent Labour party would exploit … It is reckless for the Tories to let this issue fester. (James Forsyth)

Today on Daily Politics, David Cameron was again asked about Lord Ashcroft’s tax status – is the party vice-president, the guru of the marginal seats campaign, registered to pay tax in this country? As ever, Cameron had no answer – “You’ll have to ask him about his own tax status,” he replied. He knows this reply looks shifty and evasive … There is no denying that Lord Ashcroft’s tax status is an growing embarrassment. I suspect that Ashcroft feels untouchable, having seen off several media investigations into him. But it still looks dodgy, and as the election approaches there will be mounting questions as to why a man so crucial to Cameron’s operation may no be domiciled in Britain for tax purposes. It’s a problem that will not go away. (Fraser Nelson)

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  • Channel 4’s ‘Dispatches’ also covered Ashcroft and other in ‘Cameron’s Money Men’ last night.

  • Chris Stanbra 1st Oct '08 - 7:46am

    Maybe the questions about Ashcroft’s tax status should be:
    1 Who recommended Ashcroft for a peerage?
    2 What assurances did Ashcroft give to whoever recommended him? (about his future tax status)
    and, depending on the answer to 2,
    3 Has he carried them through?
    I’m assuming that if put to Cameron the answers would be:
    1 Me, my predecessor x, or some body answerable to me or my predecessor x.
    2 Some waffle about private conversations remaining private, or perhaps even – no assurances were given, we Conservatives don’t bargain over honours.
    3 See 2 above.
    The crux is, who recommended Ashcroft. If it was Cameron or a predecessor (directly or indirectly)and assurances were given then Cameron’s current stance is not credible or sustainable.

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