The non-dom story that has been running all week points up a couple of unattractive features about the present government. First is the impression that senior ministers are mere cyphers, and that the only person who counts is Gordon Brown. Secondly, that when things go wrong, the responsibility is never the government’s. Rather, it is invariably portrayed as the failure of a government servant, and usually a very junior one at that. Fessing up is not something this government does.
For a balanced view about the matter, read What did you do in the non-dom wars in this week’s Economist.
“Calling the retreat [as Alistair Darling ‘backed away from the most contentious of his plans to tax rich foreigners living in Britain’] a “clarification”, the Treasury claimed that many of its proposed new rules had been drafted in error. The deflection of responsibility was reminiscent of earlier attempts to make an unidentified “junior official” a scapegoat for losing millions of citizens’ tax details.”
“The crisis may have passed, but the non-dom wars have left their mark. Foreign financial folk do not feel quite as welcome in London as they did, or quite so sure that the government knows what it is doing. One casualty may yet be Mr Darling himself, whose reputation for competence has been sorely strained. But was it really his fault or Gordon Brown’s?”
The problem for Gordon Brown is that the buck for a lot of what is happening, will eventually stop somewhere. Like it or not, it will be with him.