You wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy.
She has one of the most published faces in the Tory Press, but today’s front page of The Times did her no favours:
The next time David Cameron asks his speechwriter to find an example of a famous business that has set itself up in a tax haven, helping to deprive Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs of millions of pounds, he may be given an answer a little too close for comfort.
Smythson, the upmarket stationer where Samantha Cameron works as a highly paid “creative consultant”, has upped sticks from the UK for Luxembourg, one of Europe’s biggest tax shelters.
Company filings have revealed that Smythson, where the prime minister’s wife has worked for nearly two decades, is owned through a complex structure of trusts in Luxembourg and the Channel Islands.
This arrangement is likely to have helped the leather goods business, where a python-skin handbag will set well-heeled customers back £2,000, to avoid UK taxes.
The company is not accused of any wrongdoing — and there is no suggestion that Mrs Cameron has any involvement in the business’s tax affairs — but the news will nonetheless be an embarrassment to the prime minister, who has made clamping down on tax avoidance a feature of his premiership.
That is “news” only after the disaster that was Stefano Pessina putting the Boots in:
Pessina lives in Monte Carlo, with a fortune estimated at £7.5bn. Boots was targeted by tax campaigners when it moved its formal tax residence from Britain to Switzerland following Pessina’s private equity-backed buyout in 2007. Last year when Pessina merged Boots with US group Walgreens, there were plans to move the headquarters from the US to Switzerland for tax reasons, although the idea had to be abandoned in the face of a US political row and a potential customer backlash.
The weekend row started with Pessina, the 74-year-old acting chief executive of the newly-merged Walgreens Alliance Boots, saying that if Labour politicians acted in the way that they spoke “it would be a catastrophe”.
But the real horror must be the comparison of the two images above, both apparently from the same photo-op (“opening the Hong Kong outlet of Smythson”). The photographs are both credited to ImagineChina/Rex. On the left there is the web version, on the right a scan of the print edition.
The latter is a crying shame of a PSD (a Photoshop disaster).
On the other hand …
I find myself reflecting on a chain of coincidence:
- Samantha Cameron (née Sheffield) is the elder daughter of Annabel (née Jones, and — a divorce and remarriage later — Viscountess Astor).
- The Viscount Astor, William Waldorf Astor III, is the grandson of Nancy Astor.
- Nancy Astor was the topic Hamish Henderson (or A.N.Other, for there are other claimants) celebrated in D-Day Dodgers:
You’re England’s sweetheart and her pride:
We think your mouth’s too bloody wide…