The Latitude Festival is great. Smarter than almost all other music festivals and more hip than the literature festivals it’s where you go to enjoy a hip and thoughtful weekend. That’s why almost all of the Bright Green team are there.
Unfortunately the organisers seem to have gone out of their way to get sponsorship from tax dodgers. The main sponsors are Vodafone – a company notorious for avoiding around £6bn of tax. Instead of paying tax due on a takeover almost ten years ago Vodafone fought the UK government. When the new Conservative-Liberal Democrat government came to power last year one of their first decisions was to let Vodafone off with the £6bn contested bill. At the same time they were announcing a cut of almost the same amount to benefits.
Vodafone have also tried to avoid taxes in India, where the money is clearly and desperately needed to tackle poverty. It is clear that they prize profits over making their contribution to the countries where they generate money.
Tax avoidance is imporant because the taxes being dodged could pay for the vital public services that are being cut at the moment. Even if you believe that it’s important to cut the deficit there is no reason to allow companies like Vodafone to walk away without paying tax that they owe. Every pound avoided is a pound that could pay for the cancelled schools-building programme, to provide vital health care for the ill or to avoid pricing all but the very richest out of Universities.
And to add insult to injury the event is also sponsored by the Murdoch-owned Sunday Times. Not only is this owned by the same individual whose other media outlets delight in hacking the ‘phones of missing teenage girls. As I pointed out earlier in the week, Murdoch is also responsible for an extraordinary tax-dodge. He has intimidated most of the media and the government into letting him away with paying no taxes. The last time anyone was brave enough to investigate Murdoch hadn’t paid any tax in the UK in 12 years.
Completing the line-up of tax dodging sponsors is the 39% Murdoch-owned Sky Arts.
To highlight the tax dodging activities of Vodafone and Murdoch some UK Uncut activists, drawn to Latitude by the strong line-up but disgusted by the choice of sponsors have dropped a banner drop from the Vodafone-sponsored “VIP Tower” ahead of the headliner, Paolo Nutini.