Making the news…
At the Old Black Lion in Northampton, mild is on tap and revolution is in the air. The pub is the weekly meeting venue for the local branch of Left Unity, a new political party aiming to fuse Britain’s fissiparous socialists. Ahead of its founding conference in London on Saturday, I went to the shoemaking town to see what, according to Salman Shaheen, a journalist and member of Left Unity’s national committee, should represent a typical local party meeting. “It’s [in] the back room of a pub in a deprived area,” he added.
“The GMB’s move was very shrewd, it was very useful,” says 28-year-old Salman Shaheen, a member of Left Unity’s national co-ordinating group, who has previously put in spells of activism for both the Greens and Respect, and has recently been punting around the Ukip comparison. “It’s saying: ‘If you’re not listening to us, we’ll reduce our funding accordingly, and maybe look at other campaigns.’ That’s not to say they’re going to throw that £1.1m they’ve taken away from Labour at a smaller leftwing party. Of course not: other parties need to prove themselves before they can attract that kind of backing. But we’re reaching out to the trade unions, and I hope we can attract union funding as time goes on.”
Now that Labour has vowed to “work within” George Osborne’s spending plans up to 2016 and grown fonder of the rhetoric of austerity, Shaheen talks about a “gravity swell” that could favour a new party. Though the Greens “are doing some great work out there”, he says it’s time for a force “with a more radical manifesto … I want to see a party standing up for old Labour values: a party by and for workers. And I don’t think we have that at the moment. So when Left Unity came along, I thought: ‘This is worth one more shot.’”
How does he feel about splitting the left vote – as happened when the SDP broke away from Labour in the early 80s – and thereby making the Tories’ lives much easier?
“The fact is, Labour is not offering us what we need,” he says. “If we want something different, we have to stand up and fight for it and build it. Otherwise we’re never going to have it.”
Even if you end up with a very nasty Tory government rather than a Labour administration that might have its faults but would surely be preferable?
“Yeah. The point has come where many people feel that that’s something they’re prepared to do.”
Salman Shaheen is a tax expert and the editor of the International Tax Review magazine.
He said that tax evasion is having a damaging social cost, particularly at a time of austerity.
But Osborne’s approach has clearly proved that one can’t dig one’s way out of a hole by digging downwards, says Salman Shaheen, editor at International Tax Review magazine.
“I think austerity has failed and now you really need to be spending money, injecting it into the economy, investing in housing projects, infrastructure, roads, schools, these are urgent tasks now. I think we need to create jobs in the economy, we need to create houses, and we need to stimulate investment,” Mr Shaheen told RT.
“I suspect we’ll hear quite a lot about tax avoidance in this budget. It’s been a news agenda lately and the chancellor can’t afford to ignore that. We are going to hear some talk of the general anti-abuse rule. I feel like it may well be lip service, because this general anti-abuse rule is not going to catch the headline grabbing schemes that we’ve all heard about with Google, Amazon and Starbucks. So I think the chancellor is going to have to go a lot further if he wants to address the problem of corporate tax avoidance.”
During a question and answer session at the Policy Exchange event, Salman Shaheen, Indirect Tax Editor at International Tax Review, noted that ‘everyone on the panel seems to be backing the idea that business should be making its case more strongly’. Surely the best way to do that would be to back country by country reporting, he suggested. ‘If you have nothing to hide, why hide?’
A source told Salman Shaheen at ITR that a well-known Guernsey-based retailer has revealed how his company is going to attempt to get around the tightening of the loophole – by shipping via Germany.