Hypocrisy was always the charge against Angela Rayner, not tax-avoidance… And the stain will dog her for years to come

  • 2 June, 2024
  • Politics

Published in The Mail on Sunday on 02 June 2024.

It all began with Angela Rayner’s marriage certificate. While researching my biography of her, I obtained a copy of this public document. This is the bread-and-butter stuff of any examination of somebody’s life while researching a book.

The certificate’s contents surprised me.

It stated that she married union official Mark Rayner in September 2010 but that they lived at separate addresses – she was in Vicarage Road, Stockport, he was a mile away in Lowndes Lane. Nothing strange about that, you might think, but they’d had two sons by then, born in 2008 and 2009. Why weren’t they living together as a family?

After checking the electoral roll, it became apparent that Ms Rayner was registered at Vicarage Road until 2015. Odder, her brother, Darren, was registered at Mark Rayner’s house in Lowndes Lane from 2010 until 2015.

So according to the official record, Ms Rayner and her husband lived separately for the first five years of their marriage – but her brother lived with her husband and children. Neighbours said this was nonsense, saying that Darren lived in Vicarage Road and Ms Rayner lived with her husband and children in Lowndes Lane.

What’s more, when Ms Rayner re-registered her sons’ births in October 2010 – a month after her wedding – it was written on their new birth certificates that she lived at Lowndes Lane!

Further research showed that she bought her house in Vicarage Road in 2007 under Margaret Thatcher’s right-to-buy scheme with a £26,000 discount and sold it seven weeks before she became an MP in 2015 at a £48,500 profit.

She had given an interview in 2023, in her capacity as Shadow Housing Secretary, and talked about right-to-buy. ‘I think we need to review the way right-to-buy works,’ she said. ‘Not abolish it but make it fair and [make sure] we are replacing the [homes] lost.’ She said the system must be ‘fair and equitable to the public purse, to taxpayers – and that we can then build more affordable housing off the back of it’.

One area she said needed looking at was ‘how much of a discount’ is on offer, with the clear inference that she believed discounts were too high.

Interestingly, she did not mention she’d been a right-to-buy owner.

Given her political responsibilities, the history of her ownership and occupation of her Vicarage Road house was, therefore, a matter of legitimate interest.

Had she breached electoral law? What about her council tax status?

Asked about this, instead of explaining herself, she said I had an ‘unhealthy interest’ in her family.

My book was serialised in The Mail on Sunday in February, and that is how this story came into the public realm.

Along with my questions, the Guido Fawkes website raised the possibility that Ms Rayner might have a capital gains tax bill to pay.

Now, Greater Manchester Police has said its investigation into this rum business has ended with no action taken.

Many will wonder why the police were involved. It is important to stress the only reason they were is that Ms Rayner said she had taken independent advice about her property and finances that cleared her – but she refused to publish it. Her boss, Sir Keir Starmer, refused even to look at it.

‘We know best,’ they seemed to say, though for very different reasons – she because she doesn’t relish scrutiny, he because he didn’t want to upset his deputy and her wing of the Labour Party.

A Tory MP begged to differ and wrote to the police to say public confidence had to be upheld and since Ms Rayner was stonewalling, could they inquire?

They agreed, but had Ms Rayner been open and transparent from the start – qualities she’s repeatedly demanded of other politicians – the police would never have been entangled in this peculiar affair.

Others will decide for themselves if the police have left this situation satisfactorily or whether their bland statement clearing her should have explained why they took no further action. We should bear in mind that nobody can be prosecuted for electoral roll fraud unless it’s discovered within 12 months. Also, HMRC never comments on personal tax matters – though it has been reported that it will take no action against her.

My view is that this was never about money. And it certainly wasn’t about a capital gains tax bill. It was about why Ms Rayner claimed to live in one house when logic and evidence – to say nothing of multiple neighbours’ testimony – suggested she lived elsewhere.

Who was lying, Ms Rayner or the neighbours?

We still don’t know the answer – something that I predict will dog Ms Rayner for a long time.

This story was also about hypocrisy. Until my biography, voters didn’t have a clue she’d taken advantage of the right-to-buy scheme – a system that many in the Labour Party despise.

It’s fascinating that, as a socialist, Angela Rayner was happy to use the scheme.

It is equally noteworthy that she preferred not to talk about that publicly.

And it is breathtaking that she now seems to want to deny others the taxpayer-funded opportunity that she enjoyed.

Voters may want to reflect on all this on July 4.

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