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Iain Dale is Presenter of LBC Drive, Managing Director of Biteback Publications, a columnist and broadcaster and a former Conservative Parliamentary candidate.

On Wednesday afternoon, I saw a news alert flash up on my screen. “Government to spend £9.3 million on sending leaflet to 27 million homes”, it read. No, I thought, that can’t be right. After all, David Cameron specifically ruled out the government doing such a thing back in February, after his ‘triumphant’ return from Brussels with his so-called ‘deal’.

So before reading out this seemingly astonishing bit of news, I thought I had double check to see if the Press Association had got it wrong. But they hadn’t. It’s hard to describe how angry this has made me. If you believe in any sense of fairness I just cannot see how you defend it.

The increasingly hapless Liz Truss was sent out to do just that, and the best she could come up with was that people want the facts, so the Government is damn well going to give them to them. Except if you actually read the text of the leaflet it is full of opinions, threats and suppositions, with the odd fact thrown in for good measure.

The Government argues that it should be able to set out its position, as if anyone would argue with that. However, to spend taxpayers’ money effectively to rig the referendum is an utter disgrace. If it was just a leaflet, that might so be so bad. After all, there is a precedent for this from 1975 and the 2014 Scottish Referendum (as if that’s some kind of defence).

But what has slipped under the radar is the fact that £3 million of the £9.3 million is going to be spent on other propaganda on the internet. News outlets report that this money will be spent on a website. It’s almost impossible to spend that kind of money on a website, so what I imagine will be happening is that the money will be spent on Facebook and other social media advertising.

This is a binary referendum. You can either vote Leave or Remain. Each campaign ought to have the same spending limit. But because of this government leaflet, the Remain campaign will have spent £16.3 million, while the Leave campaign will be able to spend a maximum of £7 million. On which planet is that fair?

I don’t think it matters which side of the argument you are on. This stinks. The news was conveniently released on the day that the Prime Minister was in a lot of trouble over Panama. The ghost of Jo Moore lives on.

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I do find it amusing that the Guardian is working itself up into such a lather about the Panama Papers. After all, it isn’t averse to the odd bit of offshore tax planning itself, is it? The hypocrisy is breathtaking.

And hypocrisy is about the worst you can accuse the Prime Minister of in all of this. Having publicly slated Jimmy Carr for his offshore tax avoiding activities a couple of years ago, David Cameron is now getting it on the chin for his own family’s alleged activities.

But so far, Jeremy Corbyn’s attacks have fallen slightly flat. He’s made all sorts of insinuations about the Prime Minister not paying tax but he has absolutely no evidence on which to base his allegations. He says there needs to be an independent investigation into whether Cameron paid tax on his £300,000 inheritance. Does he really think that any sitting Prime Minister would be stupid enough to try to fiddle his tax?

Ah, say his detractors, we need to know if he has benefitted from offshore money at any time in his life. Are they seriously saying that an eleven year old Cameron should have asked his father how his school fees were being paid for, and then insisting that offshore money should not be used? That’s the level of this debate.

The Prime Minister has understandably become rather exasperated and demanded that his critics ‘put up or shut up’. Even the normally sensible Wes Streeting has got in on the act. Oh well, at least the Labour Party is united on something – being envious of anyone with money.

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I got a new pair of glasses this week. This is only noteworthy in so far as they’re rather different to my normal narrow lens, Norman Tebbit-style eyewear. I’ve always wanted bigger-lensed glasses but I’ve never found a pair that in any way suited my slightly odd-shaped face. Anyway, last week I found a pair which much to my surprise everyone seems to like. I’m still in the feeling self-conscious faze though.  Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.

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I’m reading a gripping account of the downfall of Tony Abbott at the moment. It’s called The Road to Ruin: How Tony Abbott and Peta Credlin Destroyed Their Own Government. Peta Credlin was the former Australian Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff and, if this book is to be believed, a nut job of a Svengali, who had total control over the Prime Minister.

Some of the anecdotes about her screaming matches are truly jaw-dropping. Abbott’s main aim in life seemed to be to please her and prevent her from losing her temper. And when she did lose her temper he’d run after her to console her and always taker her side even when he knew she was blatantly wrong. If he had taken the advice of all the people who implored him to ditch her, maybe he would still be in post.

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So Michael Gove has this month topped this site’s “Best next Tory leader” poll. Good. I hope he takes encouragement from it and stands when the time comes.

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I’ve got a frozen shoulder at the moment. Bloody painful. I went to see an osteopath on Monday. Christ alone knows what people outside the room thought we were doing, as I kept uttering rather loud ooos, ahs and light screams. Best not to speculate.

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So London will miss out on Winston McKenzie standing for the English Democrats for the mayoralty. He submitted nomination papers which had multiple identical signatures on, and they were two minutes late. This is a man who has been a member of the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats, the Greens, UKIP and Veritas.

The English Democrats had a narrow escape. The man is a perpetual embarrassment with no self-knowledge. It can surely now only be a matter of time before he leaves the English Democrats and joins Labour. They would be welcome to him.

57 comments for: Iain Dale: The Guardian’s hypocrisy over offshore tax planning takes my breath away

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