At the beginning of the year, there was a documentary on the Beeb called “Britain’s Trillion Pound Island – Inside Cayman”. I watched avidly, of course, looking out for familiar places and faces, but the part that really caught my attention was a pair of interviews – one with the Premier, Alden McLaughlin, and the other with the Governor, Helen Kilpatrick. The presenter Jacques Peretti asked each of them (in essence – I paraphrase shamelessly) why nothing is being done about the set-up in the Caymans that allows the proliferation of shell companies and opaque structures and unusual schemes so beloved of tax dodgers and money launderers. And you could almost hear the parcel being passed: the Cayman premier said it’s down to London to change the law, and the British governor said that London can’t interfere in how the island runs itself.
This unwillingness to take responsibility for what has happened and thus – crucially – for putting it right is nothing new. At exactly the same time as we were watching Jacques zipping around the Cayman coastline in a speedboat, back here in the UK there was a rash of high-profile resignations, of people bailing out when the going got tough. First to abandon ship was M&S boss Marc Bolland; some say this was always his plan, but poor Christmas sales were mentioned in the same breath. After Jeremy Corbin’s shadow cabinet re-shuffle, several MPs left in a flounce because things were not going their way. Next to head off into the (Caribbean) sunset was Sir Philip Dilley, chairman of the Environment Agency, who was on holiday in Barbados while re-flooded Cumbrians donned their waders, and who found the understandably negative publicity “unacceptable”. And then the boss of HM Revenue and Customs, Dame Lin Homer said that it was “a sensible time to move on”. Sensible for her perhaps, but she leaves the tax system in disarray.
Of course people move on and change jobs and seek new challenges, but what sort of lesson do these high-profile denials and capitulations teach young people (including new entrants to the regulated sector) – when the going gets tough, deny all responsibility and then get lost? I say make them stay on for as long as it takes, for national minimum wage, to sort out their mess.