Ragging on Ritchie

Ritchie\’s new report

Adoption of this policy would require reversal of the policy of reducing staffing at HM Revenue & Customs by 15,000 people over the period to 2015 and recruiting new staff at Companies House as opposed to the 250 redundancies announcedv in March 2011.

Strangely, this report is not funded by PCS, the union which represents such workers and which Ritchie does work for.

An indirect rather than direct influence perhaps?

Page 18 is fun, where he describes his own behaviour with Fulcrum Publishing Ltd and The Tax Gap Ltd. Here, on the benefits of income splitting, the use of dividends to dodge national insurance and the small companies tax free profits exemption, I am prepared to admit that Ritchie is expert. After all, he\’s actually done this and I haven\’t.

The rest of it is really quite simple. Forming a company is too easy and too cheap therefore we must raise the price of doing so.

Seems fair really: after all, Ritchie now does his business through an LLP, which wouldn\’t be affected, would it?

Let\’s play spot the economist, shall we?

Letter in The Guardian today. The unedited version started off:

As economists we are opposed to the public sector pension reforms proposed by this government and Lord Hutton.

The signatories:

Richard Murphy, Tax Research LLP

(No, not an economist). A retired accountant from Wandsworth in fact.

Andrew Fisher, LEAP

Secretary: Pete Firmin and Andrew Fisher (job share). Appears to be a socialist and Labour Party activist. No mention of his background as an economist. Has been known to praise Richard Seymour articles…..\’nuff said.

Howard Reed, Landman Economics

Yes, an economist, even if an odd one.

Howard Reed is director of the economic research consultancy Landman Economics. His recent projects include projects for the TUC, ippr, Demos and Compass on a wide range of issues including reform of the tax and benefit system, labour market flexibility, and business finance

Dr Stephanie Blankenburg, SOAS

Yes, an economist in so far as SOAS actually employ any of those.

Professor Prem Sikka, University of Essex

No, not an economist. Prem Sikka is Professor of Accounting at the University of Essex

John Christensen, Tax Justice Network

Claims to be an economist but is, umm, somewhat heterodox. Last seen on this blog claiming that tax incidence was only a useful argument in a closed economy. When of course it is in an open economy that it is important.

Professor Gregor Gall, University of Hertfordshire

Not an eonomist. A Professor of Industrial Relations (in short, cheerleader for unions). \”write regularly for the Morning Star\”….\’nuff said.

Colin Hines, Green New Deal Group

He is an advisor to the Green Member of European Parliament Dr Caroline Lucas, author of the book Localization- A Global Manifesto (Earthscan) and an Associate of the International Forum on Globalisation, a San Francisco based alliance of activists, academics and economists committed to challenging the adverse effects of globalisation and free trade and in the process to develop alternatives.

Before that he was the Co-ordinator of Greenpeace International\’s Economics Unit having worked for the organisation for 10 years.

The man responsible for Greenpeace\’s dreadful misunderstanding of every economic idea ever.

Bryn Davies, Union Pension Services

An actuary. Economics would be much too racy for him.

Fortunately, The Guardian cut that first line. Fortunately, for it would of course be a gross libel on all economists everywhere to call this lot \”economists\”.

Be afraid, be very afraid

The reality is that we can only meet the needs of those already in retirement and those who will retire if we invest for the future, now. And we can only meet those needs if that investment is wisely managed for the beenfit of all. And I mean all. That means the state has a duty to direct that investment.

Yup. What Ritchie means is that your pension is going to be invested by Ed Balls.

Or maybe Ritchie, Prem Sikka, Mark Serwotka, Bob Crow…….

Ritchie repeats an old error (Surprise!)

In other words, and allowing for inevitable rounding in all estimates of this sort and the fact that these ratios are bound to change a little from year to year, every single pension payment made in 2007/08, totalling £117.6 billion in all (if lump sums are ignored) was made at eventual direct cost to the UK government, even if not paid directly by it. The private sector did not, in effect, bear any of the burden in that year of paying pensions to members of private sector pension funds. Those private pensions were, in effect, paid entirely out of the state subsidies that the pension industry or those making pension contributions (whether as employer or as employee) received, directly or indirectly.

He is, of course, comparing the tax relief given this year to people saving for their pensions with the pensions paid out in this year.

Which is a truly cretinous thing to do.

Pensions, as you will have noticed, take up to 40 years to mature. And they can then last for 20-30 years more.

So, the amount being paid out in pensions this year is a reflection not of the tax relief accorded to pensions savings this year, but of the tax reliefs that have been given to pensions savings over the past 70 years or so.

Good luck making that calculation by the way. For what you would need to do is add up the value of all such reliefs and consider that to be a capital sum.

Then you regard the current payments as being the income from that capital sum. Probably best viewed as an annuity (ie, it eats its capital). And there\’s a problem as well in that you\’d have to differentiate between pensions which have matured, are paying out, and those that have not yet.

And one very important point indeed. You would not adjust for inflation. For trying to beat inflation is one of the purposes of saving in bonds, shares, property, rather than just sticking the cash under the mattress.

If the current income is more than about 5% (roughly current annuity rates) of the tax relief (recall, not inflation adjusted) granted in the past, and do recall we can only be talking about those pensions which have already matured (ie, the tax relief given to those pensions which have already matured), then it atually looks like quite a good deal.

Ritchie says private pensions paid out £41 billion in a year. Meaning that for this to be a bad deal there must have been £800 billion of cumulative tax reliefs over the years (not inflation adjusted!) to those pensions which are currently in payment.

Which, given that total private pension plan assets are around £1,200 billion (old number, I know) seems most unlikely.

In other words, this is Ritchiebollocks.

Most amusing

\”In a secret hearing this week Fred Goodwin has obtained a superinjunction preventing him being identified as a banker,\” said Hemming, the MP for Birmingham Yardley.

Partly it\’s amusing that someone would go to such expense to avoid being identified as a banker.

But there\’s a deeper little giggle there as well. For of course he\’s not a banker, not originally. He\’s a chartered accountant.

Which rather shows the perils of having the banking system run by such. Prem Sikka and Richard Murphy should take note: having done your articles does not make you a good banker.

Finally, after several years of banging on about it, Ritchie gives in and agrees

As the analysis below illustrates – and Murphy accepts – his methodology in relation to corporate tax avoidance produces an estimate which inevitably includes an element of ‘legitimate’ tax planning.

Ever since his first report came out I have been shouting that he over estimates corporation tax avoidance/evasion/abuse because he doesn\’t take account of the just and righteous use of the allowances which Parliament specifically puts into the law.

Now when he\’s talking to people who actually know about tax he accepts the point.

I\’ll not be hanging about for the \”Of course, Worstall was right\” post though.

I think I might have to become an incoherent, illogical, left winger you know

Grant Search Results

Your search for all grants awarded to Richard Murphyunder all programmes returned the following results. Please be aware that a red programme name indicates that the programme is no longer running.

\"Sort Organisation \"Sort
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Amount
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Period
Richard Murphy Power and Responsibility £70,000 Jul 2010 24 months
Personal award for defining a new role for tax in a post-recession UK
www.taxresearch.org.uk/blog

Crippled Jeebus C on a crutch.

He also gets cash from the TUC, indirectly from the Norwegian Government, the Network for Social Change, PCS, Christian Aid, Greenpeace, Action Aid Sweden, Ibis Denmark, Manchester University….and I\’m sure I\’ve seen something about the Ford Foundation out there as well.

He\’s got to be on £50k a year at the very least. Substantially more would seem a reasonable guess. Wouldn\’t be at all surprised at £100k.

So how do I get on the gravy train of making a fortune for producing illogical wibble? For other than direct pay for freelance pieces, my income from the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy is precisely £0.

Hold a fundraiser? Sell out? Suck up to someone?

Anyone willing to pay for my services in actually reading and pointing out the flaws in Ritchie\’s output?

Jeeebus……

Ritchie on BBC Guernsey

…and you’ll here a typical interview by a BBC employee in the Channel Islands – they’re always, without exception, on the side of the tax abuser, excusing that abuse is legiitmniate use of loopholes and so on. It’s not questioning – they put it as fact.

Hmm.

What does \”legitmate\” mean?

le·git·i·mate

(l\"\"-j\"\"t\"\"\"\"-m\"\"t)adj.

1. Being in compliance with the law; lawful: a legitimate business.

As no one at all is suggesting that these companies are breaking the law then yes, it is a statement of fact that this is a legitimate use of loopholes.
It\’s entirely true that R. Murphy thinks that the law should be different, but as it is, this is lawful and thus legitimate. For what is lawful and what is not lawful is not decided by what R. Murphy thinks it should be. Yet, thankfully.

In which Joseph Stiglitz mightily pisses off Ritchie

On the economic miracle which is Mauritius, our Nobel Laureate has this to say:

Suppose someone were to describe a small country that provided free education through university for all of its citizens, transport for school children and free healthcare – including heart surgery – for all. You might suspect that such a country is either phenomenally rich or on the fast track to fiscal crisis.

Well, no, not really. Education and health care are services. Where labour is cheap (which it is in a poorish country of course) it\’s actually eaiser to provide these things than it is in a richer country where labour is more expensive.

But leave that aside, how has this wondrous development been possible?

As if to prove Meade wrong, the Mauritians have increased per capita income from less than $400 around the time of independence to more than $6,700 today. The country has progressed from the sugar-based monoculture of 50 years ago to a diversified economy that includes tourism, finance, textiles, and, if current plans bear fruit, advanced technology.

Finance, eh?

Yup, Mauritius is on Ritchie\’s little list of tax havens which steal money from other places. Specifically, it\’s where a lot of Indian tax avoidance is done.

So, it seems that being a tax haven is indeed the route to development then.

Why does Ritchie want to impoverish the Mauritians?

Yes, it\’s Ritchie again

To summarise my counter arguments they are:

1) Of course multinationals pay most tax, but there are numerous reasons for this. These include:

a) The UK has the largest financial market in Europe clustering financial, oil, mining and other companies in a way that no other centre in Europe does. It probably has more multinational companies per head of population than anywhere else in the wold. Of course they make a disproportionate contribution.

b) The proportion of profits within the UK economy has risen over recent years. I show this here. Almost all of this will relate t multinational corporations – so unsurprisingly they are paying more tax. But this may not be a cause for celebration – remember this means that labour is getting a smaller share and that means the wealth disparities in the UK have risen. I don’t consider that good news.

The two points militate against each other.

OK, so we\’ve got lots of multinationals based (domiciled that is) here and quoted on our Stock Exchange and so on. They make pots of money overseas and the UK Treasury gets some of that pots of money in tax.

OK.

However, the rise in profits as a share of the economy is measured as a rise in the share of profits in GDP. That\’s, as we all know, Gross Domestic Product. Note that profits made by multinationals overseas are not domestic and thus (unless GDP accounting is even more screwed up than I thought it was) included in GDP. They are in GNI…..*

That oppression is not necessarily good for the UK economy. UK companies employ more people in all likelihood – and that generates more tax and more added value.

Tee hee.

Employing more labour is a cost. Thus if you employ more labour to get to a particular production level or output, you have added less value, not more.

Employing one bloke on £20,000 to produce £100,000 of output or emplying three blokes each on £20,000 to provide £100,000 of output. Which adds more value (all other things being equal, of course)?

2) Let’s be clear about the second point – that large companies pay lower rates of tax than smaller ones. I have argued this previously and it has been denied – but Oxford has now confirmed my findings. But I have made this an issue for good reasons. They are:

a) This reverses the policy direction of successive UK governments. We have decided to have a progressive taxation system – and that continues to be what parliament endorses, and yet that is not what we have got. That creates what I have called an ‘expectation gap’ which rightly gives rise to protest. That this exists is confirmed by the newsworthiness of the story Peston picks upon. The gap is real, and I’ll assess its size in another blog, later.

b) If the intention of parliament is not being fulfilled and the messaging that it is intended to deliver to the UK population and business community that there is a deliberate bias in our tax system to help small business overcome the disadvantages it faces when competing with large business is not being delivered in practice then very clearly our corporate tax system is not working as expected, and that is enough reason to demand change in it.

And this bit. I have a vague feeling in my water that we can explain this. For the Oxford report which Ritchie is talking about refers to trading profits. I assume that this is before financing costs. At least I\’ve been told it is before financing costs.

And what is it that we know about large v small companies? That the latter have a great deal more trouble accessing debt finance than the former. And yes, interest paid is deductible from trading profits before we get to taxable profits.

So we would expect large companies, given their access to debt finance, to have more debt than small companies. And we would thus expect interest costs to reduce their trading profits by more than they do for small companies. That is, that the gap between trading and taxable profits will be larger for large companies and thus so will the tax rates differ if we compare tax with trading, rather than post financing, profits.

There must absolutely be some of this going on: whether it\’s enough to explain the gap I don\’t know.

* As ever, please do correct if I\’m wrong here.

Ritchie makes the same damn mistake he always makes

He tells us that the Oxford report on corporation tax proves that his estimate of the tax gap is correct:

Now let’s pull this data together. 90% of companies paying 90% of all corporation tax do not pay at the expected rate of 28% but instead probably pay at a rate less than 21%. Of course that’s an extrapolation of what Oxford say, but it seems a fair one based on what they say. So, currently £32.4bn of corporation tax paid is the result of tax charged on large companies at a rate of less than 21% (let’s call it 20.5% – we don’t want to over-egg this) when as Oxford note (and they would not note this unless they thought it reasonable to surmise this) a rate of 28% was expected, irrespective of allowances and reliefs.

So let’s gross up £32.4 billion and see how much tax would have been paid if settlement had been at 28% and not 20.5%, and the answer is £44.3billion. Take off the sum we first thought of – i.e. £32.4 billion – and the difference is £11.9 billion. Which give or take is near enough £12 billion. In fact if I’d assumed the rate was 20% and not 20.5% the gap  would have been £13 billion.

In the Missing Billions I said the expectation gap – the difference between the sum we’d expect large companies to pay and the amount they actually pay – was £12 billion a year at the time. And now it’s near enough almost exactly £12 billion.

The fact is the Missing Billions was right all along.

See what he\’s done there?

Yup. He\’s entirely ignored the existence of allowances.

And there are a number of such allowances. Capital allowances, R&D tax credits, for all I know there\’s a sucking up to Ed Balls tax allowance.

So, he\’s made here exactly the same mistake he made those years ago in The Missing Billions. He is comparing headline tax rates with paid tax rates and then calling the difference the tax gap. When some (how much is of course still at issue) is the result not of tax avoidance, tax abuse, but is the entirely righteous practice of tax compliance. Using the reliefs mandated by Parliament as Parliament intended those allowances to be used.

And that really cannot be part of any \”tax gap\”, can it?

Do read through the comments over there as he gets a right going over on this point.

And now, for my party trick, I shall show that UK companies are actually paying too much in corporation tax. Far from there being a tax gap, there is in fact a very large overpayment of tax.

So, using Ritchie\’s numbers above, there should be £44 billion paid in corporation tax. But only £32 billion is. That\’s the source of his £12 billion.

But, as we\’ve already noted, no allowance has been made for allowances. Those bits that Parliament deliberately puts into the tax law to get companies to do what Parliament wants companies to do.

As an example, let us take capital allowances. How much, for example, do capital allowances cost the Treasury?

We can take our answer from Hansard.

Matthew Hancock: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the annual cost to the Exchequer of maintaining company capital allowances at May 2010 levels. [15222]

Mr Gauke: The annual cost to the Exchequer of maintaining capital allowances at May 2010 levels is currently around £20 billion around 85% of which relates to companies.

My word, that is interesting, eh?

£17 billion in capital allowances to companies.

So, back to our sums. At 28% there should be £44 billion righteously paid in corporation tax. But we\’ve also got £17 billion in capital allowances. The cost to the Treasury is, I assume, at least similar to if not equal to (and please do correct me if I\’m wrong here) the reduction that companies get on their tax bills.

So, we would expect there to be £27 billion paid in corporation tax. Yet, as Ritchie notes, actual tax paid is £32 billion.

Thus companies are over paying tax by £5 billion.

There is no corporate tax gap in short.

Now, please note, not even I actually believe this result in detail, I mean it just as an example of why that £12 billion estimate is entirely Ritchiebollocks.

Just to hammer it home. The Murphmeister tells us that the gap between the headline rate and the rate paid shows that there is a tax gap. Yet he does not adjust for the allowances that are there in the law which reduce the amounts that are righteously and legally owed. And we seem to be able to show that those allowances are larger than his purported tax gap.

That is, that there is no tax gap at all.

Now, given that I am not an expert in tax there may well be some problem with this numerical example. The logic is sound but the numbers may not be: in which case please do correct me.

Gosh, this is an interesting argument

Ritchie:

This is an extraordinary statement. How odd it is that the CEO of an multinational corporation – the sort of organisation that says it only thinks globally – uses the pretext of local law to claim……

And he claims that it is local law – and not the law of the state where his company is quoted – and not the power of international regulation – that must apply.

Umm, he seems to be saying that a multi-national company should deliberately break the local laws in a/some of the countries in which it operates.

If, for example, Angola passes a law stating that an oil company must not reveal what it is paying in royalties for oil (which, if memeory serves, they did at one point) then BP and any other company operating in Angola must break that law.

There is something of a problem with this attitude. With a company operating in the UK Richard insists that both the letter of the law and its spirit must be obeyed by all. For this is the law of the land.

Apparently laws passed by darkies elsewhere don\’t have the same power, are not subject to the same test of sovereignty, as those written by us pink types.

There are countries where women may not drive. This is of course in breach of (and quite rightly in breach of) our own laws on sex/gender discrimination. Must all UK companies now deliberately break Saudi Arabian law by insisting that their female employees there may drive?

Insert example of your choice, but he really does seem to be being colonial here. The laws around the world, whatever the independence or otherwise of other nations, should be determined in a Norfolk parsonage.

Ritchie puts us straight on the incidence of the corporate income tax

The tax debate has reached the level of farce if this is the benchmark Gauke wants to use. But it gets worse:

The second challenge we face is that people believe – or at least give the impression they do – that corporation tax is somehow a victimless tax, not paid by real people.

Of course, as with any tax, the incidence will ultimately fall on someone.

As far as corporation tax is concerned, the question is whether the burden falls on shareholders (largely in the form of pension funds) employees (through lower wages) or consumers (as a result of higher prices).

The consensus, among economists at least, is that it’s predominantly the employee who foots the bill.

This is based on the work of Professor Mike Devereux at the Oxford Centre for the Non-Taxation of Business. Mike is so neoliberal and so open minded he’s banned me from his Centre for a) questioning his assumptions and b) challenging his objectivity when doing so. But ministers still listen to him because it suits their purpose to do so.

Devereux’s work is, however, fatally flawed. What he has argued is that when corporate taxes increase then wages fall. There’s a problem with this though. First, corporate tax rates have fallen almost universally for the last twenty years so he had to work really hard to find his data. Second, he tested only one way even though the hypothesis would have been vastly easier to test the other way – did wages rise when corporate taxes fell? If they didn’t then clearly the relationship when corporate taxes rise is explained by other factors and the correlation he finds is just coincidence. Devereux must have known corporate tax decreases do not result in wage increases, but he chose to ignore the evidence running his tests in this direction could have given to ensure he could deliver the desired result of his work – that corporate taxes are, in accordance with his neoliberal mantra, and that of his funders (for the FTSE 1000 Group of Finance Directors do fund the Oxford centre) desired.

There are many other flaws in his work – but this is the fundamental one – and it reveals (in my opinion, but I know not his) clear political bias to the work which of course also appeals to David Gauke.

No, it isn\’t based on the work of Mike Deveraux.

Up to you whether you ascribe Richard\’s insistence here to malice or ignorance. Entirely your choice.

This is the absolutely standard economics of taxation. It is not a left point, a right point, a neoliberal, classical, Keynesian, New Keynesian, RBC, New Classical nor even a social democratic point.

It is simply an observation about the universe which we inhabit.

Mike Deveraux\’s contribution here has been to make an estimate of what the incidence is here in the UK. NOT, in the underlying theory, but to try and work through the numbers as to whether the workers carry 10%, 90%, more than 100%, of the economic burden of the corporation tax. His answer is arguable, depends upon some assumptions you may or may not be happy in accepting and is that the incidence is more than 100% on wages. That UK workers lose more in lower wages than the amount raised in corporation tax.

That companies do not pay tax we know. That the burden is carried by some combination of shareholders, workers and customers we similarly know absolutely. We even know, again as a matter of fact, not opinion, that the more open the economy and the smaller the economy with regard to the world economy, the more of that burden will be carried by the workers and the less of it by capital.

This is not negotiable and Richard is simply flat out wrong as he wriggles to try and deny it.

How much by whom is certainly still arguable: but not that companies do not pay tax and others do carry that burden

The labourer is worthy of his hire

I\’m directed to this:

Richard Murphy (Tax Research LLP) has been providing a lot of technical support. But please note he is a freelance consultant, so there are limits on what support he can provide without remuneration!

Seems entirely fair to me.

I was asked to do a quick paper just recently and I had to point out that part of my living comes from scribbling for people. If you want a few hundred words of stream of consciousness stuff, as with a blog post, sure, fine.

You want a few thousand of something more considered then yes, you do need to make a contribution to my mortgage/beer bill.

There\’s all sorts of things to pound the man for but making a living isn\’t one of them.

In which we answer Richard Murphy\’s question

Ritchie asks us a question today. An important question too.

Why do we allow the free movement of capital?

We do not allow the free movement of people.

So why do we choose to let capital roam as it wishes? Why is it acceptable to let capital minimise its tax? Why can capital use artifice, from the limited liability entity to the tax haven, and yet we impose the cost of supporting its errors on people?

What is the reason for condemning 5 billion of the 6 billion or so people in the world to poverty to make sure capital can make money?

Why have we made this choice?

The answer is here:

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Because it works.

As the good little liberals that we all are we desire that the poorest and most destitute of our fellow human beings rise up out of the child killing poverty, the miserable hand to mouth existence, which is the Third World peasant lifestyle.

Depending upon where are roots are, our forefathers managed this some several centuries ago (for, say, England, other parts of the UK following hard behind), Sweden managed it starting at the turn of the last century, Hong Kong starting in the 1950s perhaps, and so on, to China and India in the late 70s, early 90s, and as you can see, Africa in the mid 90s. Do, just for a moment, note what rising \”Sen Welfare\” means. It means that both inequality is falling and that average incomes are rising.

We can all also note that, while we can happily argue about how much government was needed to prepare for these various lift offs, each and every one of those lift offs was correlated with a move to a more liberal economic policy. Freer trade, fewer restrictions upon what people could do with their lives, more capital movement.

And this more liberal set of policies is what is known today as \”neoliberalism\”. If you wish, the rediscovery of the classical liberals: Smith\’s leaving the money to fructify in the pockets of the populace.

All of which is why all us good little liberals might sign up for things like the Washington Consensus. Yes, including the free movement of capital.

Because these last 30, 40 years of the triumph of neoliberalism has led to the greatest reduction in poverty in the history of our whole species. The poor are getting richer, global inequality is falling.

Which means that we can answer Ritchie\’s question: why do we allow the free movement of capital?

Because it fucking works, dunderhead.

UK freezes Gadaffi’s assets – but why now?

That\’s the question Ritchie asks so let\’s try and provide an answer, shall we?

Britain said it was revoking the diplomatic immunity of the Libyan leader and his family, including his high-profile son Saif al-Islam, who has had close links with the UK. David Cameron echoed Barack Obama in calling on him to go. The PM said: \”All of this sends a clear message to this regime: it is time for Colonel Gaddafi to go and to go now. There is no future for Libya that includes him.\”

OK, that\’s a start. Prior to this move as the de facto and de jure ruler of a sovereign state, Gaddafi enjoyed immunity.

This is a pretty basic piece of international diplomacy. We really may not like having to o this but it is necessary to deal with the world as it is, not as we would wish it to be. Some arrogant little creep comes to power somewhere: Gaddafi, Mao, Stalin, Herr Hitler and all the rest. And if we\’re not actually at war with them, we\’ve got to accept that, however they gained their state power, they do in fact have that state power.

The gravity of the crisis was reflected in Saturday night\’s vote by the UN security council to impose travel and asset sanctions on Gaddafi and his entourage and a belated arms embargo on Libya – even if these moves are now largely symbolic. Gaddafi also became the first sitting head of state to be referred to the international criminal court by unanimous vote of the often-divided UN security council. British officials also said his exclusion from the UK was an unprecedented act.

See, we\’ve got international laws about these things.

Britain froze the assets of Muammar Gaddafi and his five children on Sunday evening at an emergency meeting of the Privy Council at Windsor castle presided over by the Queen.

Yup.

We may know that someone\’s an arrogant thieving thug, that he routinely steals power from the people along with their cash. But as sovereign, we have to deal with them. So we do. We may all wish to see Gaddafi hanging from his heels from the light fittings of downtown Tripoli but while he\’s a seat at the UN, is acknoweldged by the \”international community\” as The Bloke, we cannot do anything else.

Once he\’s not so regarded, of course we can.

So that\’s the \”why now?\” answer. He had both diplomatic and sovereign immunity. Now he doesn\’t.

And shouldn’t we now freeze the assets of the leaders of a great many more states?

And if not, why not?

Because Richard, in order to do so, you\’ve got to get the UN, that guardian of international law (I know, snigger) to vote that you can.