LONDON — Jeremy Corbyn released his full tax return on Sunday.
Here was a prime opportunity for the Labour leader to get some positive publicity for an act of political transparency, while putting the chancellor Philip Hammond, who has refused to do the same, on the back foot.
And yet somehow he still managed to mess it up.
For starters, many publications were not even told his tax return had been released. Business Insider did not receive a press release about the story, while the editor of Politics Home, Kevin Schofield, who also failed to receive one, was told that the release “wasn’t sent all round.”
The tax return, if you would like to read it, is published in a series of tiny illegible images on the Labour leader’s website. Unfortunately, when you click on the images, you are redirected to Corbyn’s home page.
After almost giving up I eventually realised that the documents could be viewed on my phone.
Here’s the first page:
The confusion didn’t end there, unfortunately. As other journalists quickly picked up, the return appears to be missing the income that Corbyn receives for being the leader of the opposition. The listing for “total income from all employments” only appears to contain his basic salary for being an MP.
When questioned about this by the Telegraph, the leaders’ office were “unable to explain the omission” leading to the paper publishing a story about £40,000 of taxable income being “missing” from the return. If true, this would have been the second year in a row that the Labour leader had published a tax return with mistakes on it.
However, some hours later, after midnight, the leader’s press team finally put out a statement clearing up the confusion and accusing media outlets of “misleading” their readers.
Again, the statement wasn’t sent out to all publications but was instead published as a screengrab on a new and fairly obscure Twitter account called @LOTOcomms.
You can read it below.
The statement also doesn’t explain why Corbyn’s pay for being leader of the opposition appears to have been listed under pensions.
Whatever the explanation, the Labour leader finally commented on the story first thing this morning. Again, he made no mention of Philip Hammond, or his refusal to release his own tax return.
As a result of the confusion, a potentially positive story about Corbyn and a potentially negative story about a senior government figure, was turned into yet another row between Corbyn’s office and the press that covers him.
Who you believe is to blame for this depends on your point of view. If you’re one of Corbyn’s opponents then you will blame his incompetence, if you’re one of his supporters then you will blame the media.
But either way, the apparent target of the story, Philip Hammond, has been let off the hook.
This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
Jeremy Corbyn supports tax transparency and welcomes scrutiny of his own #taxreturn, but some reports have been misleading. For the record: pic.twitter.com/sqnqILkdkR
— Labour Leader Media (@LOTOcomms) March 6, 2017
Transparency invites scrutiny. I welcome it as should all those seeking highest office. My taxes fully paid, nothing missing, nothing hidden
— Jeremy Corbyn MP (@jeremycorbyn) March 6, 2017
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