The late editor of Punch, Alan Coren, informed a friend after his first golf lesson that it was ” a hideous, hideous game and, as for the bunkers, it was no wonder that Hitler died in one.” Following the communique at the end of the G20 meeting in Russia last week, it remains to be seen whether the 15 point OECD Action Plan on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting adopted there ever makes it out of the difficult bunker from which it is being driven. My money goes on much of it landing up in the rough.
What is likely to be heading for a hole-in-one, courtesy of the G20 meeting, is Automatic Exchange of Information – which, despite press confusion, is separate from the Action Plan. Thanks to the Americans’ successful siege of the world’s financial institutions through its FATCA legislation, the rest of the world’s big governments are going to have an easy time flattening the small ones.
Now, the immediate reaction (in other words, what modern newspaper reporters do for a living) of most of us is that this automatic information idea is a slam dunk good thing. According to the Tax Justice Network, it seems, there is enough undeclared income hidden in the sand to raise and launch the Lost Kingdom of Atlantis.
Difficult to argue with that. The problem is what Hollywood action movies spend most of their multi-million budgets doing- collateral damage. In chasing the crooked few, there is yet another attack on the privacy of Joe Public. Furthermore, the policy will encourage economic timidity. As regular citizens face increasingly stringent reporting requirements (inevitable when you give power to faceless bureaucrats) they will increasingly retreat to their financial bunkers, investing in domestic low risk products through their local banks who will look after their withholding tax requirements. That is an assault on capitalism at its most positive.
Although, thanks to the populist knee-jerk media, there is no chance of it happening – the international community needs to treat this issue with tender loving care.
While on the subject of Mr Public’s privacy and tender loving care, this week, of course, Britain and much of the world welcomed the safe arrival of the third in the queue for Britain’s top job (Charles has to be the epitome of the patient English “queuer”) . But it has clearly all been too much. This poor child has been hounded since before he was born and is going to be under a microscope for the rest of his life even though he is not likely to become KIng George VII until late in the century. In an act of public mindedness I have, therefore, decided to leave young Georgie alone – and hound his father instead.
What on earth did the future King William V think he was doing when he left the hospital with his wife and child? Swinging the baby-seat (with baby on board) like a picnic basket he proceeded to the driver’s side, plonked him in the back, jumped in to the driver’s seat, belted up and drove off. The driving bit was funny. Even though he drives a helicopter in his spare time, he (and most of the royal family), when caught on camera, always look like they have just passed their test. Purposely adjusting the mirrors, woodenly lifting and letting off the hand brake, sitting bolt upright and forgetting to look round for traffic before pulling off are the actions of a novice. The driver I always aspired to emulate was my late Uncle Denny who had started driving before they had driving tests. In his sixties he would lounge in his Ford Cortina, cigarette or cigar in mouth, arm resting on the open window ledge, changing gear according to mood rather than engine revolutions, driving the car as if it was his favourite armchair with a 1600 cc engine up its backside.
What was NOT funny was the seemingly novice handling of Next-King-But-Two’s Baby Seat by Next-King-But-One. While I may claim to know a thing or two about taxation I am a positive expert on Baby Seats. With five strapping children and three gorgeous grandchildren, I have done my share of strapping in. And, however much I love them, it is not a pleasant experience – for them or me.
Firstly, wherever else modern fashion/safety standards dictate the seat should be placed (front passenger seat, middle back seat, roof etc) you do not place it through the open door on the driver’s side. While Kensington Palace may have a Carriage Drive, when William, Kate and George arrived at proud grandparents Carole and Michael’s two-up-two-down in Bucklebury, Prince William would have had to deal with passing cars and dust carts (not to mention insidiously silent milk floats).
Secondly, you cannot just plonk the thing on the back seat. As was abundantly apparent from the HD pictures, the illustration on the side of the car-seat made clear to every Englishman or immigrant (but evidently not future monarch) that it needs a seat belt. Believe me, putting a seat belt around a baby seat for the first time and finding the right lock in the middle (there are always two – because of the middle seat) is one of the most annoying experiences known to man. How often have I found myself , back aching, sweat pouring from brow, face-in-face with one of my poor grandchildren as I toil to get it right.
And then he jumped in the car and just drove off. You ALWAYS turn round to check the kids are alright before driving off even if the mother (only one day after giving birth – poor girl) is in the back seat.
All I can say is that, when they got to Carole and Michael’s place, I hope Carole sorted him out – she seems a sensible sort of woman and the more time the little fellow spends there with normal people and out of the public eye the better a king he will one day be.
Having grown up with stories about stuffy royalty, I cannot help but smile when I think of Carole, a few years from now, coming down to the kitchen during school holidays and making egg on toast for two future kings. I assume protocol will not require her to curtsey twice.