Strange case of the PM and the comedian

Jimmy Carr is a hugely popular comedian, one of the smartest of the new generation of British entertainers. Like thousands of the rich here, he’s been using an offshore account, legally enough, to minimise his tax bill.

This week the Murdoch-owned Times ran a report on his tax affairs and those of pro-Tory entertainer Gary Barlow. Carr was then the subject of an unprecedented attack by Prime Minister David Cameron, who seems to be finding it difficult to break the habit of taking his cue from News International. He took time out from the G20 summit in Mexico to condemn Carr’s handling of his tax affairs as “morally wrong”.  The prime ministerial attack on Carr sparked a media onslaught and the comedian’s London home was surrounded by media hacks.

Most of the donors to Cameron’s Conservative Party, who’ve been dodging the Inland Revenue for generations, would have choked on their cornflakes when they heard the PM’s moralising outburst.

I’m all for the rich being made to pay their taxes, but why single out Jimmy Carr? Could it possibly be anything to do with the fact that in a fortnight’s time he’s due to host a big fundraiser in Regents Park for the Palestinian children’s fundraiser, the Hoping Foundation?

Asked in Mexico about the tax status of Barlow, also named in the Times report, Cameron blustered that he was “not going to give a running commentary on different people’s tax affairs”. Least of all his own – a Downing Street spokesman has already suggested that previously announced plans to publish the tax records of the PM and other senior ministers may in fact be abandoned.

Hope for a generation

The Hoping Foundation is a very effective campaigner on behalf of Palestinian children. “Hoping” stands for Hope and Optimism for Palestinians in the Next Generation. The charity was founded in 2003 by fashion designer Bella Freud, daughter of the late artist Lucian Freud, and Palestinian Oxford academic Karma Nabulsi. It provides educational opportunities for children in the camps in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza.

Palestinians still form the world’s biggest refugee population, with eight million in camps, half of them children.

Supporters of the Hoping Foundation include Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Moss and Roger Waters of Pink Floyd. Their last big event in November 2011, hosted by Jonathan Ross with performers including Boy George and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, raised more than £400,000. Let’s hope the fuss over Jimmy Carr – who’s now apologised for his tax minimisation – won’t stop them raising as much again at Regents Park on July 8.

Voices of Brixton

Visiting Brixton today to see a great friend from the old days, it was heartening to find the place looking livelier than it has for years. We lived in next-door Clapham at the time of the 1985 riots, provoked when police shot a woman during a house search. In those years the borough of Lambeth, to which both suburbs belong, had some of the worst indices of poverty in the capital. Even a few years ago the place was looking pretty down at heel.

Today it’s experiencing a revival. Brixton is still full of young people and immigrants, with a wave of new arrivals, mainly from from Africa, adding to the diversity. At the same time the area has had enough gentrification to inject some cash into the local economy without ruining its character. The social problems haven’t gone away – not in Cameron’s Britain – but the people have remarkable resilience and great community spirit.

Right by the tube the market, which is open every day of the week, has taken on a new lease of life. You can still buy fresh produce, meat and fish at good prices, but there’s also a host of stalls selling food, clothing and artefacts from every part of the world, and at night the place is transformed into one massive eat street.

There’s also some imaginative public art, notably a giant Maggi Hambling heron perched above the junction with Coldharbour Lane, and right inside the market a fabulous wall installation by Will Self called “Brixton Speaks”. Made up of phrases overheard in the market, randomly placed but illuminated in sequence to create dialogues, it is spot-on as an expression of the place’s character.  When it was set up last year Will Self said: “Brixton Speaks is an artwork intended to reflect the people who live, work and shop in Brixton Market and its environs the way they themselves speak. The aim of Brixton Speaks is not to antagonise, shock, or distort, but simply to mirror the great vigour, invention and diversity of Brixtonians.”

Two lively local websites, Brixton blog and urban75, will tell you more about the area.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *