So he caved. This morning, after the prevalent media coverage of his tax affairs, Jimmy Carr apologised. He admitted that he made a “terrible error of judgement” and has pledged to have nothing more to do with tax avoidance schemes.
I have a confession to make. I’m a huge Jimmy Carr fan. I’ve been to see him and I have all his DVDs. I happen to personally like the man who, behind the comedian façade is pro-gay and has donated more to charity than you and I ever will.
“But OMGZ Chris how can you like him? He makes jokes about gays having AIDS, disabled children and Madeleine McCann!” will be the inevitable response. Well, of course, his personal comedic repertoire is partly what made him fair-game for this media feasting over the past few days. Scattered among the inconsistent anger at his tax affairs were comments about his humour and the contextual elements at which he chooses to apply that humour. “So he apologises for dodging tax but not for his disgusting disablist jokes” went one tweet this morning. It’s a sad indictment of the political world that whilst individuals involved in politics tend to sign up to gallows humour with quite a level of vigour privately; in public they’ll moralise about how such jokes are unacceptable – that they trivialise matters that are sometimes deeply personal, tragic, and horrific. Politics is filled with people who have a taste for the darker elements of comedy – whilst I make a very rubbish Spartacus I will admit: I am one of them.
What is considerably more distasteful than Carr’s jokes, or his tax affairs, was the response to the whole furore by our glorious leader, David Cameron. Apparently what Jimmy did was “morally wrong”. Presumably it was so because Jimmy Carr isn’t a Tory donor – after all, taking into account that all three political parties still enthusiastically seek and receive donations from tax avoiders; Cameron was less eager to comment on Lord Ashcroft’s tax affairs in 2010. It’s amazing how much silence you can buy in politics.
Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems all benefit from and are complicit in tax avoidance. As one member of staff at Lib Dem HQ quipped to me a few years back, “The only sort of people that can afford to throw oodles of cash at political parties are non-doms”. Jimmy Carr has this week become a scapegoat for one of the more prolific examples of politicians refusing to bite the hand that feeds them whilst unceremoniously embarking on a quest of hypocrisy in moralising over others that do it. I find it flabbergasting that socialists from the Labour Party on Twitter are baying for Carr’s blood when only last month they were pounding the streets of London asking everybody to vote for their very own tax avoider.
Jimmy Carr is a comedian. He has never taken the moral high ground beyond his personal comedic façade, unlike the politicians who criticised him yet continue to wine and dine others who have done the same. The only real difference is that Jimmy hasn’t attempted to buy their influence.