Nicky Morgan. Photo: Getty
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Nicky Morgan appears to agree that non-doms should pay tax. What?

But she’s a Conservative minister! This mole is confused.

Nicky Morgan, Conservative education minister, was the sole Tory spokesperson on the Today programme this morning, so she was the unlucky enough to have to respond to Labour’s “non-doms should pay tax” policy announcement. (An actual policy being announced during a general election campaign, I hear you say? Try not to be too surprised, they slip out sometimes.)

Jim Naughtie naughtily tacked it onto an otherwise unremarkable interview about primary education. That’s when it all got confusing.

The key part is here, at about 2hrs40mins.

Morgan says:

Labour had 13 years in which to tackle this and they’ve haven’t done this. I don’t think anyone would disagree that people should be paying taxes here, because those taxes are essential for what we’ve just been discussing, education.

She makes it sound as if all reasonable people would, of course, agree that people living in this country should pay tax on their earnings. Except that hasn’t been her government’s policy up until now, and she’s currently supposed to be rebutting exactly this proposal from the opposition party. Naughtie pounces:

Well hang on, you’re saying that no one would disagree that people living here with non-dom status should be paying taxes on their overseas earnings?

She responds:

Yes, well that’s exactly what we’ve said, both individuals and corporates, and that’s why we’ve increased the non-dom levy...

They go back and forth a few more times on the levy, and then Naughtie gently reminds her that this “isn’t your government’s policy”. At which point she staggers backwards and attempts to walk to party line for the rest of the interview.

This mole is confused. What should reasonable people be agreeing with about non-doms paying tax, Minister Morgan?

Here’s a transcript of the whole exchange:

NM My reaction is that once you look at the detail, actually they’re not proposing to abolish non-dom status. They’re talking about potentially changing the length of time someone will be able to be here...

JN ...they’re tightening the rules, no argument about that, they’re tightening the rules. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

NM Well, we have already tightened the rules in this parliament. And we are very clear, the Conservative Party and George Osborne in the Treasury has been very clear that people who are based here should pay taxes here, we’ve introduced from last week a tax on companies...

JN ...Well hang on, a lot of them don’t...

NM But we have absolutely cracked down. We’ve increased the non-dom levy in this parliament, non-doms are paying more than they’ve ever paid before. Labour had 13 years in which to tackle this and they’ve haven’t done this. I don’t think anyone would disagree that people should be paying taxes here, because those taxes are essential for what we’ve just been discussing, education.

JN Well hang on, you’re saying that no one would disagree that people living here with non-dom status should be paying taxes on their overseas earnings?

NM Yes, well that’s exactly what we’ve said, both individuals and corporates, and that’s why we’ve increased the non-dom levy...

JN Well why aren’t they?

NM We have increased the non-dom levy...

JN No, the levy is one thing, and the level at which it is set is one thing, paying the tax is another. Are you saying they should pay the tax? Because that’s not your government’s policy.

NM I’m saying that we have at the Treasury clawed back £5bn in this parliament, a crack down on aggressive tax avoidance and evasion and I think that’s exactly what we should do. They’re now paying more in stamp duty...

JN That’s a different issue...

NM I think it’s overall the same issue, that people who are based here should pay their taxes here, and that’s exactly why the diverted profit tax which we saw come into force last week is exactly what we have done in this parliament, because those taxes are essential to pay for those essential services, like education, health and other critical public services which people expect to be fully funded.

JN Are you saying that you, personally, from what you’ve just said, would like to see people with non-dom status paying tax in this country on their overseas earnings?

NM Well, I think we can have the debate about it. I think what the Labour Party are...

JN No, I’m just asking you. Would you like that to happen?

NM What the Labour Party are not being clear about today is on whether they are intending to abolish non-dom status, or simply change or consult on the length of time people would be here to before they have to pay their taxes...

JN Well, that’s fine. John talked to Ed Balls about that earlier. But I’m asking you: would you like to see non-doms paying tax on their overseas earnings or not?

NM Well, we certainly...As I say, that’s why we’ve increased the non-dom levy in this parliament. Non-doms are now paying more in this parliament thanks to the Conseravtive-led government policies over the course of the past five years, I think that’s the right thing to happen.

JN Nicky Morgan, thank you very much.

I'm a mole, innit.

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The decline of the north's sporting powerhouse

Yorkshire historically acted as a counterweight to the dominance of southern elites, in sport as in politics and culture. Now, things are different.

On a drive between Sheffield and Barnsley, I spotted a striking painting of the Kes poster. Billy Casper’s two-fingered salute covered the wall of a once-popular pub that is now boarded up.

It is almost 50 years since the late Barry Hines wrote A Kestrel for a Knave, the novel that inspired Ken Loach’s 1969 film, and it seems that the defiant, us-against-the-world, stick-it-to-the-man Yorkshireness he commemorated still resonates here. Almost two-thirds of the people of south Yorkshire voted to leave the EU, flicking two fingers up at what they saw as a London-based establishment, detached from life beyond the capital.

But whatever happened to Billy the unlikely lad, and the myriad other northern characters who were once the stars of stage and screen? Like the pitheads that dominated Casper’s tightly knit neighbourhood, they have disappeared from the landscape. The rot set in during the 1980s, when industries were destroyed and communities collapsed, a point eloquently made in Melvyn Bragg’s excellent radio series The Matter of the North.

Yorkshire historically acted as a counterweight to the dominance of southern elites, in sport as in politics and culture. Yet today, we rarely get to hear the voices of Barnsley, Sheffield, Doncaster and Rotherham. And the Yorkshire sporting powerhouse is no more – at least, not as we once knew it.

This should be a matter of national concern. The White Rose county is, after all, the home of the world’s oldest registered football club – Sheffield FC, formed in 1857 – and the first English team to win three successive League titles, Huddersfield Town, in the mid-1920s. Hull City are now Yorkshire’s lone representative in the Premier League.

Howard Wilkinson, the manager of Leeds United when they were crowned champions in 1992, the season before the Premier League was founded, lamented the passing of a less money-obsessed era. “My dad worked at Orgreave,” he said, “the scene of Mrs Thatcher’s greatest hour, bless her. You paid for putting an axe through what is a very strong culture of community and joint responsibility.”

The best-known scene in Loach’s film shows a football match in which Mr Sugden, the PE teacher, played by Brian Glover, comically assumes the role of Bobby Charlton. It was played out on the muddy school fields of Barnsley’s run-down Athersley estate. On a visit to his alma mater a few years ago, David Bradley, who played the scrawny 15-year-old Billy, showed me the goalposts that he had swung from as a reluctant goalkeeper. “You can still see the dint in the crossbar,” he said. When I spoke to him recently, Bradley enthused about his lifelong support for Barnsley FC. “But I’ve not been to the ground over the last season and a half,” he said. “I can’t afford it.”

Bradley is not alone. Many long-standing fans have been priced out. Barnsley is only a Championship side, but for their home encounter with Newcastle last October, their fans had to pay £30 for a ticket.

The English game is rooted in the northern, working-class communities that have borne the brunt of austerity over the past six years. The top leagues – like the EU – are perceived to be out of touch and skewed in favour of the moneyed elites.

Bradley, an ardent Remainer, despaired after the Brexit vote. “They did not know what they were doing. But I can understand why. There’s still a lot of neglect, a lot of deprivation in parts of Barnsley. They feel left behind because they have been left behind.”

It is true that there has been a feel-good factor in Yorkshire following the Rio Olympics; if the county were a country, it would have finished 17th in the international medals table. Yet while millions have been invested in “podium-level athletes”, in the team games that are most relevant to the lives of most Yorkshire folk – football, cricket and rugby league – there is a clear division between sport’s elites and its grass roots. While lucrative TV deals have enriched ruling bodies and top clubs, there has been a large decrease in the number of adults playing any sport in the four years since London staged the Games.

According to figures from Sport England, there are now 67,000 fewer people in Yorkshire involved in sport than there were in 2012. In Doncaster, to take a typical post-industrial White Rose town, there has been a 13 per cent drop in participation – compared with a 0.4 per cent decline nationally.

Attendances at rugby league, the region’s “national sport”, are falling. But cricket, in theory, is thriving, with Yorkshire winning the County Championship in 2014 and 2015. Yet Joe Root, the batsman and poster boy for this renaissance, plays far more games for his country than for his county and was rested from Yorkshire’s 2016 title decider against Middlesex.

“Root’s almost not a Yorkshire player nowadays,” said Stuart Rayner, whose book The War of the White Roses chronicles the club’s fortunes between 1968 and 1986. As a fan back then, I frequently watched Geoffrey Boycott and other local stars at Headingley. My favourite was the England bowler Chris Old, a gritty, defiant, unsung anti-hero in the Billy Casper mould.

When Old made his debut, 13 of the 17-strong Yorkshire squad were registered as working-class professionals. Half a century later, three of the five Yorkshiremen selec­ted for the last Ashes series – Root, Jonny Bairstow and Gary Ballance – were privately educated. “The game of cricket now is played in public schools,” Old told me. “Top players are getting huge amounts of money, but the grass-roots game doesn’t seem to have benefited in any way.”

“In ten years’ time you won’t get a Joe Root,” Rayner said. “If you haven’t seen these top Yorkshire cricketers playing in your backyard and you haven’t got Sky, it will be difficult to get the whole cricket bug. So where is the next generation of Roots going to come from?” Or the next generation of Jessica Ennis-Hills? Three years ago, the Sheffield stadium where she trained and first discovered athletics was closed after cuts to local services.

This article first appeared in the 19 January 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The Trump era