Margaret Hodge stands aside as head of spending watchdog
I am sorry that Margaret Hodge has announced that she has no plan to seek the chair’s role on the Public Accounts Committee during the course of this parliament. Equally I am unsurprised; she had made it pretty clear to me how unlikely it was that she would do so several months ago.
This is hardly the time for a political obituary – because I suspect Margaret has at least one big role left to surprise us with – but I do think it fair to acknowledge her extraordinary contribution to the tax abuse debate during the last few years.
As I was noted as saying in the Guardian not long ago:
“Margaret is not an expert and she does muddle things up sometimes, but her strength has been to ask the questions that any reasonable person might do without being intimidated.”Richard Murphy on Margaret Hodge
“She sees over and beyond that,” Murphy says. “That is where she has been amazingly effective. Companies and HMRC rely on the detail to say they have stayed within the letter of the law. But Margaret points out that the outcome is not what parliament intended and therefore something must be wrong. She has upset the cosy relationship between HMRC and big business.”
“Yes, she does a bit of grandstanding,” says Murphy, “but there is an innate sense of justice and outrage to her questioning that strikes a chord with the public watching.”
And people have been watching across the world. There is a story that she was asked for a selfie by a director of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) at a conference in Paris on the grounds that she is now a “tax rockstar”. That’s true, says Murphy: she has literally rocked the world of tax.
Margaret Hodge, the fiery head of the UK’s Public Accounts Committee, has been hauling the bosses of large multinational corporations over the coals for their egregious abuses of the UK tax system. Now, post-election, she is stepping down.
Many tax professionals in the UK dislike, hate, or even loathe her. That is essentially because she has fought against their interests, in the public interest.
We won’t do a detailed dissection of her time in the hot seat. If you want that, you might read this, from UK tax barrister Jolyon Maugham. As he says:
Farewell, Margaret Hodge“The tax profession, by and large, will be delighted to see the back of her. . . . Nevertheless, I struggle to see any other serious claimant to the title of most influential Opposition MP of the last Parliamentary term.”
EU parliament cracks down on shell firms
Alan Rusbridger: press can't afford to cover corruption and tax avoidance