The Angela Rayner questions aren’t going away

Labour Party deputy leader Angela Rayner
Labour Party deputy leader Angela Rayner

It has now emerged that police are investigating multiple allegations against Angela Rayner, the Labour deputy leader. She is facing scrutiny on several fronts, including whether she and her husband paid the correct amount of capital gains tax on the sale of two properties. Ms Rayner maintains that she followed expert advice and has done nothing wrong.

With at least a dozen officers assigned to the case, Greater Manchester Police need to get on with it. A leisurely investigation would not just be a diversion of resources that could be deployed elsewhere. It may allow Ms Rayner to avoid answering difficult questions on these matters, perhaps even until after the general election.

A similar point relates to any potential investigation by HMRC into Ms Rayner’s affairs. Tax officials do not routinely make public when they have launched such an inquiry. There is a justification for this, since the result could well be that all tax owed was indeed paid. Given the complexity of the tax system, such judgments are not always clear-cut.

Such secrecy is more problematic when HMRC does require a settlement. Last year, Nadhim Zahawi was sacked from his role as Conservative Party chairman by Rishi Sunak, after the Prime Minister’s ethics adviser found that he had committed a serious breach of the ministerial code over his taxes. It had emerged that he had settled a multi-million pound bill with HMRC when he was chancellor.

Should the public not be informed in such situations, especially when it concerns a senior politician? They are, after all, responsible for setting taxation policy for the rest of us. The question comes into even sharper focus given Labour’s fierce denunciation of “tax dodgers”. In the party’s eyes, this too often seems to include not just those who break the law by evading tax, but people who use perfectly legitimate means to minimise their tax bill.

It has been reported that Labour had destroyed documents that could have revealed where Ms Rayner claimed to be living when she applied to be a parliamentary candidate, which may have cast light on a separate allegation laid against her. But the public’s interest in this story is not going to go away, however many times Sir Keir Starmer might dismiss it as a “smear”. Voters would be better served by full transparency, not least from Ms Rayner.