Richard North, 22/06/2013  

Well, as expected, the Mirror ambush of Farage over his setting up an offshore trust has certainly displaced any other headlines that UKIP might have garnered over the past two days.

Apart from an ill-judged intervention from Dellers, even those which just convey the story uncritically paint a picture of the UKIP leader that most of his followers would not wish to see, especially when accompanied by headlines such as: "Is the shine coming off Nigel Farage?".

A good proportion of the 900-plus commenters on the Dellers piece simply do not get the point. As New Statesman gleefully recalls, it is not that Farage has done anything wrong. It is simply his hypocrisy, which stands completely at odds with his "man of the people" image.

To see this in action, we have his speech (above) in the European Parliament on 21 May about the European Council meeting on tax. He says (3 min 10 sec):
… Tax avoidance is legal and the biggest reason that tax havens are allowed to prosper is that we've got this very statist mindset that we must try and get as much tax out of successful individuals as we possibly can. If you do that, and if you have a very complicated tax system, people will do all they can within the law to avoid paying tax. And the answer for western governments is to learn some of the lessons from the 1980s in Britain and America. Bring taxes down, simplify taxes and then for those that wish to obey the law, there's no need to use tax havens.
Then, on the fateful day last week, he is asked by a Mirror reporter up in Aberdeen about tax avoidance. Says Farage then, "It's something we have to handle actually at a global level otherwise it's meaningless because hot money otherwise gets a chance to move around".

So here is The Great Leader, at one defending the use of tax havens – incidentally identifying the three under British administration, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and the Caymans – then saying that they are something "we have to handle … at a global level", and then going on to apologise for his "mistake" in opening up a trust fund in an offshore tax haven.

As damning though, as Autonomous Mind points out, is a later interview on Channel 4 News, where Farage feigns ignorance of whether the Isle of Man is actually offshore, declaring: "Well, it is difficult to define whether it is off-shore or not".

The point is quickly pounced upon by the Daily Telegraph, but what we are seeing is classic Farage – a mixture of apparent candour and "little boy charm", combined with an "aw, sucks" apology, artfully judged to disarm his interrogator.  Against those unused to it, the technique often works to great effect.

Perhaps though, the most damning indictment of Farage is that, having set up his tax avoidance trust, it actually ended up costing him money. That, for a supposedly successful City trader, is hardly a reputation-enhancing admission. However, it does suggest that he ran his business affairs about as well as he is currently running his party.

How different it was on 25th July 1999, shortly after Mr Farage had been elected to the European Parliament for the first time. In a Meridian TV interview, he declared:
You will remember that right through (the 1999 Euro campaign) that we said we are not going on the gravy train; that we are the only people who are intending, annually, to publish so that the public can inspect them, our expense accounts, our allowance accounts, and the excess that we get – the excess that we are forced to take – particularly on travelling allowances, we are going to be putting into a trust fund and that money will be used to help victims of the European Union in our country, so I do reject the allegation that we're on the gravy train and there's certainly no chance of the three of us going native.
This is the very self-same man who has yet to publish any personal accounts and who was, four years later, to set up a secret offshore trust fund. Thus does his hand-crafted reputation continue to unravel.


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