Not again Johann

He does have a way with history, doesn\’t he?

Let’s start with the most hopeless and wildly idealistic cause – and see how it won. The first ever attempt to hold a Gay Pride rally in Trafalgar Square was in 1965. Two dozen people turned up – and they were mostly beaten by the police and arrested. Gay people were imprisoned for having sex, and even the most compassionate defense of gay people offered in public life was that they should be pitied for being mentally ill.

Imagine if you had stood in Trafalgar Square that day and told those two dozen brave men and women: “Forty-five years from now, they will stop the traffic in Central London for a Gay Pride parade on this very spot, and it will be attended by hundreds of thousands of people. There will be married gay couples, and representatives of every political party, and openly gay soldiers and government ministers and huge numbers of straight supporters – and it will be the homophobes who are regarded as freaks.” It would have seemed like a preposterous statement of science fiction. But it happened. It happened in one lifetime. Why? Not because the people in power spontaneously realized that millennia of persecuting gay people had been wrong, but because determined ordinary citizens banded together and demanded justice.

Nothing at all to do with Leo Abse, the Wolfenden Report, no, it was all people power, eh?

In the 1960s, one MP, Leo Abse and a peer Lord Arran put forward proposals to humanise the way in which criminal law treated homosexual men by means of the Sexual Offences Bill. This attempt at liberalisation in the laws relating to male homosexuality can be placed in the context of rising prosecutions against homosexual men. The potential for these prosecutions to bring existing sexual offences legislation into disrepute was seen as acute and is evidenced by an article published by The Sunday Times entitled \”Law and Hypocrisy\” on 28 March 1954.

In his 1965 Sexual Offences Bill, Arran drew heavily upon the findings of the Wolfenden Report (1957) which recommended the decriminalisation of certain homosexual offences.

The Wolfenden committee was set up to investigate homosexuality and prostitution in the mid 1950s, and included on its panel a Judge, psychiatrist, an academic and various theologians. They came to the conclusion (with one dissenter) that criminal law could not credibly intervene in the private sexual affairs of consenting adults in the privacy of their homes. The position was summarised by the committee as follows: “unless a deliberate attempt be made by society through the agency of the law to equate the sphere of crime with that of sin, there must remain a realm of private that is in brief, not the law\’s business” (Wolfenden Report, 1957).

And yes, of course Johann gets his tax stuff messed up.

The company – which has doubled its profits during this recession – engaged in all kinds of accounting twists and turns, but it was eventually ruled this refusal breached anti-tax avoidance rules. They looked set to pay a sum Private Eye calculates to be more than £6bn.

Then, suddenly, the exchequer – run by George Osborne – cancelled almost all of the outstanding tax bill, in a move a senior figure in Revenues and Customs says is “an unbelievable cave-in.” A few days after the decision, Osborne was promoting Vodafone on a tax-payer funded trip to India. He then appointed Andy Halford, the finance director of Vodafone, to the government’s Advisory Board on Business Tax Rates, apparently because he thinks this is a model of how the Tories think it should be done.

By contrast, the Indian government chose to pursue Vodafone through the courts for the billions in tax they have failed to pay there. Yes, the British state is less functional than the Indian state when it comes to collecting revenues from the wealthy. This is not an isolated incident. Richard Murphy, of Tax Research UK, calculates that UK corporations fail to pay a further £12bn a year in taxes they legally owe, while the rich avoid or evade up to £120bn.

Look who his source is?

11 thoughts on “Not again Johann”

  1. wow…so much ignorance from someone empolyede as a commentator on cultural issues. Does he realise that, for example, Lord Montague was prosecuted for homosexual offences? That MPs such as Tom Driberg and Guy Boothby effectively led parallel lives for the whole of their political careers. The fact that the law was changed had nothing to do with “people power” and emos. It had everything to do with effective action. Has “people power” ever changed anything in the UK? Remember the protests against the last government’s contemptible actions against hunting with dogs and the protests against the Iraq war…they achieved so much, didn’t they! People power belongs to the lexis of deluded mummy’s boys such as Sunny Hundal.

  2. By contrast, the Indian government chose to pursue Vodafone through the courts for the billions in tax they have failed to pay there.

    Didn’t HMRC pursue Vodafone through the courts for a decade as well?

  3. ‘A spokesman for HM Revenue and Customs said of the £6bn: “That number is an urban myth.”‘

    Wonder whether Richie will be getting a letter from a large corporation’s legal dept?

    Might encourage him to focus on the facts rather than the polemic. But then maybe his genetic wiring does not allow.

  4. This is such a foolish post it’s hard to know where to begin. Hari is so obviously right, and you are so obviously wrong. I mean, if you ask anyone – i mean anyone – “gay rights success was a result of what: people power or . . . . the wolfenden report?” they will just think you are an idiot. Go on, go out in the streets and try it. Law is made in the context of what is acceptable. People power works. Why do you bother even writing such rubbish? Hari, and Private Eye, got their tax stuff right. And Murphy probably did too, though I haven’t checked his.

    Tim adds: Always nice to hear from one of Richard’s co-authors.

    As to Murph and the tax: the story coming out is that the CFC regs are in direct conflict with EU law on the subject. Which is why the settlement as HMRC knew they would lose.

  5. & I’d contest his “– and it will be the homophobes who are regarded as freaks”

    Might be true in the lofty ‘right thinking’ world he inhabits but down with the ordinary unthinking folk I’d guess it’s about 50% indifference mixed with a certain level of distaste & 25% outright aversion.

    But maybe those people don’t have ‘people power’ ’cause they’re not the right sort of people.

  6. I imagine Johann Hari is aware of Leo Abse and the Wolfenden report. He doesn’t say that the advancement of gay rights had nothing to do with them. He says that protest makes a difference. Maybe he’s right?

    What brought acceptance of gay rights into the mainstream? Was it *only* Wolfenden and a change in the law? Obviously not.

  7. Even though lefties have a reputation for being stupid, I’m particularly staggered by their fuckwittery on this issue.

    Ritchie, not usually known for his caginess, says that “it will never really be known” whether £6bn is the right number. They eventually settled with HMRC for £1.2bn (which rather suggests that £6bn was nonsense).

    Yet, they’re protesting because they claim Vodafone owes… £6bn!!

    Is there even half a brain in that rabble?

  8. Tim, much as though I dislike Hari’s gibberings, haven’t you argued on here that it is people’s attitudes which changed an subsequently got enshrined in law, not the law which prompts the change in attitudes?

    Tim adds: Yup, I have and do. It’s the “six peeps having a gay pride parade” which I think is nutso about the change in the law. About Hari’s argument. It really wasn’t “the protests” that changed the law, not the protestors. It was the general change in what the populstion thought that did so.

  9. On another blog someone once uttered these immortal words “I wouldn’t believe Johann Hari if he told me that he’s gay”.

  10. Pingback: Johann Hari: Self-satirical twit of the week | The Wardman Wire

  11. Pingback: Johann Hari: Self-satirical twit of the week

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