While the deeply subversive Guardian continues the turn of the screw over what it has called “The HSBC Files”, there has been a mildly diverting interlude following yesterday’s Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs), after Young Dave deployed a straight bat to anything HSBC related, and Mil The Younger described him as “A dodgy Prime Minister surrounded by dodgy donors”. Arthur Daley goes to Switzerland, perhaps.
But the Miliband intervention that has generated most heat, if perhaps not too much light, has been his focus on just one man: “Let us take Stanley Fink, who gave £3 million to the Conservative party. The Prime Minister actually appointed him as treasurer of the party and gave him a peerage for good measure. Will he now explain what steps he is going to take about the tax avoidance activities of Lord Fink?”
Consider Miliband’s question to Cameron: he makes no specific allegation, merely inviting Dave to consider “the tax avoidance activities”. Fink’s letter talks about his Swiss HSBC account, but Miliband does not make an allegation about that. Had the Labour leader talked of “personal” tax avoidance in Switzerland, Fink would have had a point, but he didn’t. The question could have been aimed at his company’s activities, not Fink’s.
[UPDATE 1245 hours: far from venturing anywhere near m'learned friends, Lord Fink has blinked first and conceded that he does indeed avoid tax.
He told Joe Murphy at the Standard "I don’t even want to sue Ed Miliband ... If he simply uses the words ‘Lord Fink did ordinary tax avoidance’ then no, I couldn’t sue him. But if he made the statement ‘dodgy’ about my bank account, that was potentially libellous".
But Miliband didn't say his bank account was "dodgy", and so the good Lord has backed down. Meanwhile, Miliband has visited his old comprehensive school in north London to make a speech in which he has stood by his comments at PMQs.
All of which means the Labour leader comes out of that one having been shown to have made the right call, and with his reputation suitably enhanced. Not a good 24 hours for the yah-boo boys, then]