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An Open Letter to Ken Livingstone

12/03/2016 14:58 | Updated 12 March 2016
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Dear Ken,

I write with sadness with regard your inflammatory and unfounded comments to the BBC and LBC yesterday regarding my recent donation to Dan Jarvis, the Labour MP for Barnsley Central. In your comments, which clearly refer to me ‐ as I am the only hedge fund manager who has made a donation to Mr Jarvis ‐ you make a number of claims which are both untrue and highly offensive. I refute all of these claims and explain why in this letter.

1. In your interviews you appear to infer that I evade tax and also by implication seek to have it minimised by politicians. This is utterly untrue. I actually want the top rate of tax to go up and I pay all my taxes in full.

Let's look at the facts:

I donated over £600,000 to the Labour Party in the three years prior to the last election precisely because I strongly support the Party's policy of raising the top rate of tax back to 50% and also introducing a 'Mansion Tax', both of which would increase the amount of tax I pay. I stated this very clearly in an open letter to The Independent on 20 March 2015, prior to the last election, explaining why I was donating to the Labour Party. I quote as follows:

"I believe very strongly that everyone should contribute to society and that those who are lucky enough to earn a lot should contribute more than others... The current government has cut taxes for the richest by reducing the top rate of income tax from 50% to 45% while cutting spending elsewhere to fund it. Labour's commitment to both reverse this tax cut for the wealthiest and abolish the bedroom tax will right this wrong... I [also] support Labour's proposed 'Mansion Tax' which will be levied on the owners of houses worth more than £2 million."

For your reference the link to the full letter is here.

Yes, you may find it hard to believe it, but I am a hedge fund manager who actively WANTS the amount of tax that I pay to go up.

You also suggest I am tax dodger. For the record I pay all my taxes in full and have always been UK domiciled.

2. You appear to be suggest that because I am a hedge fund manager I cannot be 'real' Labour and that Mr Jarvis cannot be 'Labour' if he accepts my donation.

Again let's look at the facts:

i) I have been Labour all my life. I was born Labour. Just after I was born my dad stood to be a Labour councillor and then proudly served as one for over 30 years. My mum, then a teacher, went on to be the country's first Equal Opportunities in Education adviser, for Brent Council, in 1982. Brent, as I am sure you are aware, was then a radical local Labour council much maligned by the right wing press.

ii) I have been donating to Labour all my working life. When I got my first job in 1991 and became a member of the Party, I set up a monthly standing order. Under this I donated £5 a month and this standing order is still going 25 years later. You see, I am not donating to change policy; I am donating because I always have, because I have always loved the Party, the Party of Attlee, Healey and Smith. Now I earn more I can donate more. Simple. In this regard I recently donated £60,000 to Sadiq Khan's campaign to become London Mayor (this will be publicly declared, in full accordance with the Electoral Commission rules, at the next declaration date). I have never ever met or spoken to Sadiq and nor would I expect to. I have given to his campaign solely because I think he will make a fantastic Labour mayor. I am sure you would agree.

How I wonder do you get to decide who is 'real' Labour or not? The Party is not a football stadium which you personally have 'naming rights' over. We have always been a tolerant and broad church, within which colleagues from all wings have consistently added value. Long may it remain so.

3. In your BBC interview you appear to be suggest that I am 'sick', a derogatory word often used to suggest mental illness. If you are 'name calling' to suggest I am mentally ill this saddens me immensely as mental illness is a very serious matter for my family and countless millions of Britons. It is not a matter for cheap jibes and name calling.

4. In your BBC interview you state that all Hedge Funds are one and the same and that they have been principal destroyers of the UK's manufacturing sector. I disagree.

i) Firstly, you talk about Hedge Funds as if we are all the same. That is like David Attenborough describing all of the members of the animal kingdom as being identical, without pointing out the clear differences between, say, a grazing cow and a charging rogue elephant. Like animals, Hedge Funds come in all shapes and sizes and pursue hundreds of very different investment strategies. The vast majority of hedge funds go quietly about their business, in a legal and highly regulated environment, of making legitimate investment returns for their clients, many of whom are pension funds. I have always managed my fund in this way, and I condemn 'rogue elephants' as and when they appear, as naturally do all right thinking members of my industry.

ii) Secondly, it is generally accepted by economists that the principal causes of the reduction in the size of the UK manufacturing base ‐ which I agree is a tragedy and needs to be reversed ‐ were firstly the devastating spike in the value of the pound during the recession of the early 1980's (largely as a result of Mrs Thatcher's monetary policies) and secondly, over the last twenty years, by the impact of globalisation, via the entry of China in particular into world markets, which has helped decimate manufacturing capacity across the Western world. I 100% agree we need to invest more in manufacturing and strongly support policies that might achieve this.

Conclusion

I was born into and love the Labour party. I believe wealthy people, such as myself, should pay higher rates of tax to help fund the NHS, our public services, the armed forces and reduce inequality. That is why I have always donated to the Party and have continued to vote for and support it long after it transparently became against my financial interests to do so. We should be working together to defeat the Tories, not falling out among ourselves. I look forward to working with you, to do this, in the future.

Cheers,

Martin Taylor

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