Smart politicians grasp public anger over tax avoidance

Jimmy Carr is at the centre of a tax avoidance row. Photo: Press Association

The Prime Minister used strong words against comedian Jimmy Carr today because he understands that this is a very hot political potato.

There is a clear pattern to this. What we have seen through this recession is people slogging on, sometimes in difficult circumstances, paying their taxes, and I don't think there is anything more infuriating that seeing other people not paying their taxes, and generally not seeming to have a hard time at all.

The truth is for a lot of people, when they look at this, they just see that the rich are different. They shouldn't be different of course, but they just seem to be able to get themselves into a situation were they are treated differently.

Public anger started with the bankers; it has rolled on to the question of corporate tax avoidance, it is looking at how the question of people in boardrooms getting enormous pay rises, apparently for no purpose, and now the focus is on individual tax avoidance.

I think the interesting thing is yes, these schemes may be perfectly legal, but in the public mind this isn't a defence any more, rather it is the question of morality, of public morality.

This has very serious political connotations, because any government which does not grip the public's sense of what is right and wrong is likely to be in very serious trouble indeed.

I think the Tories and the Lib Dems would say in government they have done more than the previous government did to crack down, and there is probably some justice to that, but I think the truth is the party that grips this public mood most strongly is going to be in a good position going into the next election, because public feeling is undoubtedly running very high.