Metro have given their reasoning for pulling the ad. A spokesman said:
“I gave it the OK before Christmas, but said it would have to be pulled if there was any controversy, and now Conservative HQ are on the attack over the ‘tax dodger’ claims.
“I don’t have a problem with the group advertising with us but obviously we don’t want to run anything that could be viewed as libellous.”
Yet 38 Degrees’s David Babbs explained:
“It’s a bit implausible that they were genuinely worried about libel – we had been told that the adverts had been looked at and approved by their libel lawyers several days earlier, they’d be looked at and approved by 38 Degrees libel lawyers several days before that, and several other papers felt comfortable running them.”
Right-wing papers the Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph have pulled 38 Degrees’s anti-tax-dodging “Artful Dodger” ads – despite having agreed prices with the group. Upon seeing the advert, the Telegraph refused to run it while the Mail upped their quote hugely, though Associated News said it would run the ad in today’s Metro – yet spiked it at the last minute.
David Babbs, executive director of 38 Degrees, told Left Foot Forward:
“Our adverts ran today in the i, the Independent, and the Guardian – but we were prevented from running them in the Telegraph or any of the Daily Mail papers.
“It shows that our tax dodging campaign is touching a raw nerve, and that those papers most supportive of the Conservative-led government are willing to exercise editorial control even over advertising.
“Despite some right-wing papers blocking the ads, 38 Degrees members have seen the impact that this campaign is having. Our favourite moments was seeing Eamonn Holmes confront minister Justine Greening live on Sky Breakfast News with a copy of our ads.
“By working together, we’ve forced this issue up the agenda today.”
38 Degrees will now spend the money which would have been used to place ads in the Mail and Telegraph to run the adverts on billboards and bus stops around the UK.
The ad focuses on George Osborne, asking if he is “the dodgiest dodger of them all”. In October, Left Foot Forward reported that Mr Osborne was one of three cabinet ministers who stood accused avoiding millions of pounds in tax, alongside international development secretary Andrew Mitchell and transport secretary Philip Hammond.
Channel Four’s Dispatches revealed how the Chancellor’s family has set up offshore trusts, one of the most common ways for the super rich to avoid paying inheritance tax, and that, put simply, there will be no inheritance tax to pay on the death of his father – a saving of up to £1.6m.
We have also repeatedly highlighted the allegations of tax avoidance made against the Tories, and the party’s refusal to take action against and clamp down on tax avoidance, from Lord Ashcroft to Philip Green and the circle of hedge fund managers surrounding the Chancellor, while in February, we reported how the Conservative party’s MEPs voted against reforms to clamp down on tax dodgers.