At the end of the month, the vast majority of us receive a pay slip and quickly notice the tax deduction from our wages. Most are obliged to pay it, recognising the need to do their bit no matter how big or small, to keep national infrastructure going. Hey, as a national population, we even bailed out the financial industry in 2008 without being asked, we are more powerful than we are given credit for.
So when the Paradise Papers were leaked and it emerged that Lewis Hamilton, a man idolised by many racing fans in the UK, was found to be cleverly, legally avoiding £3.3m in tax on a private jet, there was rightly outrage and motorsport fans harangued the Brit for answers on social media. But the pace of the news cycle in the digital age is far quicker than anything Hamilton can do in an F1 car, and the agenda swiftly moved on.
Hamilton was one of the high-profile names on the list, and other figures such as Her Majesty The Queen, prominent Conservative Party donor Lord Ashcroft and Bono were found to be dodging tax, too. Despite the scope of power and greater relevance to mainstream society that other names on the list had, it was Lewis Hamilton that was the focus of the 10 o’clock news and it was his cheery face, drenched in podium champagne plastered on the front pages of much of the print media, too.
To understand why Lewis Hamilton was used as the face of this cycle of tax avoiding scandal, we firstly have to address the ownership of our press:
If just over fifty-percent of the British Press are owned by billionaires who have been scrutinised for avoiding tax themselves, could we ever honestly expect the Paradise Papers to be covered and explored with a justified level of scrutiny that matched the disgust that the British public had? Was this going to be dealt with in a way that championed real journalism? The story was never going to get the analysis it deserved, because doing so would encourage the majority owners of the British press to fall under scrutiny, too.
— Fred Smith (@actualfredsmith) May 15, 2017
What these guys really needed was a public figure who was already polarising in the British landscape. It would also be helpful if he was brought up in an industry in which questioning the authority and direction of wealthy people could destroy his career. The majority of papers and also the primetime BBC news segment opted for the celebrity/entertainment industry guy rather than exploring the building resentment that the public have towards what is evidently a tax evasion culture embedded within the higher echelons of society.
The fall guy boasts accolades that go against, therefore sensationalise, the fact that he was implied in the Paradise Papers. In Formula One coverage, Hamilton is often framed as an individual who climbed the Motorsport ranks against the odds. Unlike most successful drivers in F1, he came from a working class background.
Hamilton is also proud of his heritage and makes a point of being a successful black man in an industry devoid of diversity. In terms of the broader story that implicated both The Royal Family and a key donor to the political party that is running this country (into the ground), editorially opting for Hamilton as the individual from this list of candidates makes us realise that he was the scapegoat for this story because the magnitude of others implied was so great it was left unchallenged.
ISA's are government supported schemes designed to increase personal savings, thereby reducing the number of people the government needs to support in older age. Lewis Hamilton jumped through loop holes to avoid paying for his private jet. It isn't remotely similar.
— JG (@300Gregory) November 19, 2017
It by no means clears him of his guilt and hopefully, even his biggest fans will concede this. What he did was entirely legal, but also very unethical. The missing £3.3m is both a figure that a man with a net worth of £180m doesn’t need, and a quantity that could have had a significant impact on many.
To quantify the anger directed at this individual requires the ability to see the edge we are quickly approaching in which people are appalled to be under one set of rules, where as those who can afford a small team of advisors find themselves in a different tier. Tax evasion and tax avoidance may have different legal statuses, but the results are the same: less money for our services.