A multi-millionaire property tycoon ex-Labour donor who quit the party over claims that he no longer feels ‘any affinity or connection’ with the party since Jeremy Corbyn became leader, citing the failure of the leadership to properly deal with “the most blatant acts of antisemitism”, previously used tax havens to build his vast multi-million pound fortune – loopholes which Jeremy Corbyn has pledged to crack down on, should he become Prime Minister.
Sir David Garrard – who was once listed as Britain’s 451st richest person with a personal fortune in excess of £100m – had previously donated around £1.5m to the Labour party since 2003, but had not donated to the party since Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader.
Several mainstream publications have reported today how Mr Garrard – a former Tory supporter who switched allegiance to Labour when Tony Blair was Prime Minister – had quit the party citing the supposed failure of the current leadership to deal with recent reports of anti-Semitism.
However, when Mr Garrard was still donating money to Labour in 2014 when it was under the leadership of Ed Miliband, the property tycoon’s behaviour brought numerous claims of hypocrisy on the party after it was revealed Garrard had ‘placed shares in an offshore trust that can be used to avoid tax.’
Lawyers acting for Garrard in 2014 insisted that he had done nothing legally wrong and that all the transactions were fully declared to the UK tax authorities – statements which are all true (but extremely morally dubious).
However, legal loopholes similar to those used by Mr Garrard to avoid paying UK tax – and which therefore helped him build his vast fortune – would be completely closed should the current Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn get into power.
Mr Garrard reportedly placed a total of 18.5m shares of his property company Minerva into two separate tax-haven based companies during the 1980s and 90s – 1.8m shares into Hummel Investments Limited based in Jersey, and 16.7m shares into the Codex Trust Company, based in Liechtenstein.
Mr Garrard subsequently sold the shares in 2005 for a staggering £37m – and, having placed the shares in tax havens, experts claim that Mr Garrard would have benefited financially from significant ‘reductions in capital gains tax liabilities’ when the shares were sold.
Sir David Garrard – who had previously supported the Tories, and who was knighted in 2002 – was also one of the numerous high-profile figures embroiled in the ‘Cash for Honours’ scandal – a criminal investigation into the relationship between political donations and donors being awarded high-ranking honours such as lifetime peerages which usually entitle the holder to sit in the House of Lords.
Thank you to Sir David Garrard for disassociating himself with the Labour Party. As a proven user of offshore trusts to avoid paying UK tax, it is better for the party to be distanced from those who seek to immorally undermine and damage the UK economy.
— Matt Thomas #JC4PM2019 (@Trickyjabs) April 1, 2018
Another super rich Labour donor – property tycoon David Abrahams – also announced he was quitting the party earlier this week, meaning that Labour – in complete contrast to the billionaire-backed Tories – now almost exclusively rely on small donations from ordinary people to finances their coffers.
There is no evidence to suggest that either Sir David Garrard or David Abrahams’s activities breached any *current* laws.
Despite seeing an exodus of their super-rich donors since Jeremy Corbyn came to power, Labour’s coffers are actually thriving.
As Corbyn supporter Matt Thomas rightly explains on Twitter:
“When Sir David Garrard first donated to the Labour party they had 190k members, £20m income & were £25m in debt. Now they have 570k members, £50m income & are debt free. Mass people powered politics is so much more rewarding than bowing to a few tax-avoiding benefactors.”
Whilst the claims of anti-Semtism against some Labour supporters are undoubtedly genuine, there is no doubt that the current furore is being overblown and used as yet another bat to beat Jeremy Corbyn with.
This stance is also backed up by the fact that a comparison in YouGov data between 2015 and 2017 shows conclusively that current Labour voters are far less likely to hold anti-Semitic views now than since Jeremy Corbyn came to power in 2015. This is also added to the fact that the comparitive studies showed Labour voters were far less likely to hold anti-Semitic views than Conservative voters.
Garrard and Abrahams’ claims to have quit the party because of a supposed failure to tackle anti-Semitism under Corbyn have also been discredited following evidence emerging from 2005 which revealed that serious complaints of anti-Semitism had also been made during leadership of Tony Blair, but were ignored.
Labour MP Luciana Berger – who was also the MP to challenge Jeremy Corbyn’s response to the removal of an allegedly anti-Semitic mural on Facebook – hit out at Tony Blair’s policies in 2005 which she said were responsible ‘for the rise in not only anti-Semitism but any form of racism directed at immigrants.‘.
And, citing Labour’s pandering to anti-immigration sentiment under Blair in 2005, Berger also went on to say that she was “disappointed by the fact that they are playing to other parties’ policies in order to discuss it all. Whereas the Labour Party in the past have been so strong and so active in combating and standing up for themselves, I’m surprised that on this particular issue, it’s unfortunate that it’s been played into.”
Berger was elected as a Labour MP in 2010, but hit out at Blair after resigning as a student union official following her claims of anti-Semitism.
Tony Blair had previously claimed in an interview that anti-Semitic views had only seeped into the Labour Party ‘in the last few years’ since Corbyn came to power.
Labour donors are right to have concerns about anti-Semitism, and such abhorrent views are clearly only held by a small – and provably reducing – minority of Labour Party members and voters. But it is surely undeniable that all the available evidence points to the fact that such resignations have far more to do with disagreements over Jeremy Corbyn’s policies which are now – contrary to New Labour – firmly in the interests of ordinary people rather than the interests of the super-rich.