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A Capitalist Tax Scam? Good Lord

Just as the deadline for articles for the Standard looms and we start to panic, realising there is nothing newsworthy on the religious front to write about – it’s been over a week since the last human sacrifice to Allah, and we’ve not had a decent miracle from Jesus for ages, we remember the golden rule: have faith and the Lord will provide.

And he has done. The good Lord whom we have to thank for this month’s article is Lord Stephen Green. The Reverend Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint in fact who as well as being a C of E vicar, a Tory member of the House of Lords, current Minister of State for Trade and Investment, Chairman of the HSBC group from 2006 to 2010, and former chair of HSBC’s private bank in Switzerland whose clients included arms dealers, diamond smugglers and drugs runners, and which is now being investigated for tax irregularities in numerous countries, and who has inconveniently found himself at the centre of the scandal. And, oh yes, he’s also the author of a book on morality.

There’s nothing new about those who want to ram their morality down our throats finding themselves up to their dog collars in financial irregularities of course. Before the Rev Lord Green hit the headlines we had the Rev Paul Flowers, the drug-fuelled ‘crystal Methodist’, who also allegedly had an expensive weakness for rent-boys (one claimed Flowers ‘paid him £500 per night but still owes £1,000’) and who almost brought the Co-op bank to its knees.

On a lighter note, there was also a group of C of E vicars some years ago who, although they had complete faith in god, obviously didn’t altogether trust him as an employer and decided they needed the protection of a Trade Union. The one they joined was MSF, whose initials stood for ‘Manufacturing, Science and Finance’. We were pleased to see our fellow workers getting themselves unionised, but puzzled at their chosen union and wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury at the time asking if, as their employment had nothing to do with manufacturing or science, could we assume the main interest was finance. We didn’t get a reply.

But back to the Rev Lord Green’s book on morality – Good Value: Reflections on Money, Morality and an Uncertain World. Here, for the benefit of any Socialist Standard readers wishing to be guided by the Rev Lord Green’s words of wisdom are a few extracts to steer you through any moral dilemmas you may have in managing your finances.

‘There will always be those who have not merely more than others’ he informs us. Some will have ‘more than they could conceivably need.’ And we can simply ‘shrug our shoulders’, or ‘we can hear the still, small voice of conscience’. This ‘reminds us – if we listen – that something is owed by the affluent. And a debt not paid is a debtor who is guilty’.

‘As individuals’ he assures us ‘we do not govern our behaviour simply by what is allowed by law or regulation. We have our own codes of conduct, and hold ourselves accountable’. And where in big companies does this responsibility begin? ‘With their boards, of course. There is no other task they have which is more important’ the former HSBC chairman assures us.

With such honesty and wisdom as this from our moral superiors how can we, or indeed, the banking system and the capitalists running the show possibly go wrong?

NW