Tax Break

John Fisher, international tax consultant

Archive for the tag “Adrian Mole”

Two deaths and a funeral

Taken too soon

Taken too soon

Last week news of two deaths brought sadness to members of my family. My lawyer son was devastated by the premature demise of  Adrian Mole aged only 47 1/52, cut down in his prime when his greatest years of mediocrity and failure lay before him. As Mr Mole was nearly 10 years younger than me I had never had the opportunity, as I picked at the acne spots on my unseemly teenage face,  to take comfort in the confessions he committed to his candid teenage diary: his obsessive love for the unattainable Pandora Braithwaite, his dismissive opinion of his utterly abominable dysfunctional parents and so on and so forth.

My own grief was reserved for Adrian’s creator,  Sue Townsend, who died on April 10 at the untimely age of  68 1/52.  Sue Townsend was one of a handful of this generation’s genuinely great comic authors. Her forte was social and political satire and, I admit, much of what she wrote made me want to throw up – which is probably a sign of how good it was. While the Adrian Mole series of books and her most recent “The Woman Who Stayed in Bed for a Year” prey on the dysfunctionality of the  British  middle class (lower and whatever else), “The Queen and I” cuts out the middle-class entirely; the deposed Royal Family are forced to subsist on social welfare while living on a filthy working class estate. Prince Charles gets arrested, while the Queen Mother has the down-and-out neighbours over for tea.

My personal favourite Sue Townsend novel is “Number 10”, in which a thinly disguised Tony Blair dresses up as a woman and tours the country with his police guard finding out what the public really thinks. The dearth of unattractive dysfunctionals, coupled with my eternal delight at seeing that particular Prime Minister dissed,  makes it an uplifting experience from beginning to end.

You couldn't make him up

You couldn’t make him up

My most-loved quote from that novel, and from the late, lamented Ms Townsend’s pen in general,  relates to when Edward Clare’s (Tony Blair’s) wife Adele (Cherie) has taken a fashionable breast-feeding break from a meeting on the subject of Irritable Bowel Syndrome at 10 Downing Street. Baroness Holyoaks of the Liberal Democrats (those wombats who are now in coalition with Dave Cameron) is striking up a conversation with Rosemary Umbago, the blind editor of the Daily Voice:

“…’I do think it’s marvellous how you manage with your visual impairment, Rosemary.’

“Rosemary snapped, ‘Oh please call it blindness. I really can’t bear those weasel words of political correctness. I’m blind, for God’s sake. I was born blind. I’m not one of those sensitive nouveau-blind people who keep whinging on about their precious sight loss.’

“Baroness Hollyoaks, mindful of Rosemary’s dislike of politically correct language, said, ‘So, Rosemary, I understand you are married for the second time to a South African. Is he a nigger?'”

Now, while you search for excuses as to how she could get away with that last line, although Townsend was born in Leicester – which has the highest ethnic minority population in the United Kingdom –  far from being black she could probably best be described as a “whiter shade of pale”. She was, however, blind – along with being plagued with a cacophony of other dreadful illnesses and impairments as well as a history of near-poverty. It may explain why her satire is so cutting and spot-on. It also speaks volumes about a remarkable woman who brought enormous pleasure to millions. The Taxbreak family will keenly miss Ms Townsend and her creations and while this Post has nothing to do with tax, it has everything to do with this Blog .

My condolences to the multi-ethnic inhabitants of Leicester on the loss of  a favourite daughter and, meanwhile,  Happy Holidays to those of you in Leicester celebrating Passover or Easter this week. (Anyone?)



Just another argy-bargy

Otherwise visitors might mistake it for the Outer Hebrides

Adrian Mole, aged 15 years and 1 day, wrote in his diary on April 3, 1982:  “10am. Woke my father up to tell him Argentina has invaded the Falklands. He shot out of bed because he thought the Falklands lay off the coast of Scotland. When I pointed out that they were eight thousand miles away he got back into bed and pulled the covers over his head.”

Argentina fires another salvo in Falklands conflict

30 years on and Argentina is making noises again – this time through the good offices of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner who has recently been rattling her jewelry at Britain. One notch up on Eva Peron – the legendary Evita was wife of a  president, Cristina was wife of a president and  IS a  president – her rantings seem to be going nowhere. If Britain no longer has the capability to send a task force to the South Atlantic ( no Harrier jump jets , no Ark Royal aircraft carrier, no Royal Yacht Britannia), Argentina doesn’t have the money to send a telegram to Downing Street declaring war. Though, of course, there is no room for complacency now the stakes have been raised with the anticipation of substantial oil reserves in the region.

Meanwhile, the good life in the Falklands goes on. There are  3000+  residents – the Falkland Islands is an archipelago of around 700 islands, which sounds as impressive as Luxembourg’s 4 cities –  but 75% of the population live in the undisputed capital, Stanley (undisputed because it is the only city) and the rest are thrown around a few other windswept islands.

The Falkland Islands has a government (the British retain responsibility for defence and foreign policy). Currently relying on fishing, tourism and the wool trade for its economic viability (it is self supporting and relatively wealthy), there is even a developed taxation system with a full-scale Double Taxation Treaty with the UK. Around 600 people (some 30% of the workforce) work in the public sector.

Wait a minute! Let’s rewind. Are they potty? They have a population the size of a large school and institutions to compete with the European Union.

It takes 4 government workers to operate the doors

I took a look at the  Falkland Islands Government Website  which makes fascinating reading if you are the sort of person who stands on railway bridges marking down the registration numbers of passing trains, and where I discovered most importantly that “Falkland Islands” is singular. The most striking thing about this site is that, despite 600 (six hundred!) public sector workers contemplating their navels, they can’t even be bothered to keep it up to date. The last time someone appears to have rolled into the office after a busy day of penguin watching was in 2010 when the higher personal and corporate tax rates stood at 26%.  There was talk of a Medical Levy being charged on income with effect from 2011 but I suppose we will have to wait until 2013 to find out if it ever went into force.  The Taxation Office (which shares premises, but not a telephone number with the Pensions Office) is in the capital Stanley (couldn’t be anywhere else, really) – and its address is Stanley, which is easy to remember.

But why do they need all this Nation State nonsense?  Surely it would make more sense if, when they need revenue, the Chief Executive (sort of Prime Minister) would just stroll into the local pubs (there must be more than one, I suppose) and have a whip around for say, Mr Foggerty’s hip replacement, or a new road leading nowhere. And what do they spend all this money on (other than the 600 government stargazers)? In fact, what does a relatively wealthy remote society do with its money at all – how many IMAX cinemas does Stanley need?

"Argies, now after me! Simon says...."

When Britain dashed to save the Falklands in 1982 none of this was important. What was important was that Argentina was the World Cup holder and Margaret Thatcher knew that, after qualifying for the July 1982 finals for the first time since 1970, England didn’t have a prayer. The best thing she could do was nobble the Argies at the thing the British do best – War.  Unlike today, those were jingoistic times. The tabloid Sun Newspaper ran a headline after the sinking of the Belgrano with the totally unnecessary loss of 350 Argentinian lives: “Gotcha” , but was not responsible for “Kill an Argie and win a Metro” – which, as it referred to the flagship of  the dying British motor industry, was not much of an incentive for the boys in green.

Of course, not everybody supported the Falklands War. Ronald Reagan, Maggie’s platonic lover from across the pond, refused to play ball – probably saving himself for the more-sure-thing of invading Grenada , with its two men and a dog, the following year.

The Argies always did play fair

In the event, Britain was – of course – victorious and the Argies surrendered just in the nick of time at 9pm on June 14, the day after the start of the World Cup in Spain. Argentina and England both got blown away in the second qualifying round and Italy –  no stranger to losing wars – went on to take the title.

If I were a Falklander, I would watch out for 2014. The World Cup is in Brazil.

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