There was a beautifully serendipitous irony to the timing of the revelations that a number of high-profile British musicians, including Arctic Monkeys, had been using a tax-avoidance scheme called Liberty to shield their money from the Inland Revenue by stashing it away in Jersey. When the story broke yesterday, thousands of teachers, firefighters, council staff and other public sector workers were on strike to defend the services for which taxation, in one form or another, pays.
There is, of course, a long history of entertainers bitching about contributing to the common purse. The best-known example is the Beatles' Taxman, wherein George Harrison gracelessly complained about the Wilson government's fiscal policy at the same time that he was consorting with Hindu gurus and urging his followers abandon materialism. Harrison, at least, had the decency to make his hypocritical stance public. The same can't be said for this week's blushing celebrity faces.
Criticism should especially apply to the Arctic Monkeys – whose members have sheltered up to £1.1m in the Channel Islands – as they've long traded on their image as a band of the people, with Turner cast as a working-class hero, a snotty, sharp-minded northern kid in the mould of the young Lennon, cutting through the bullshit and telling it like it is. They could do with a reminder of just how much they owe to the state they're so reluctant to fund. Singer Alex Turner may have ascended to the elite, dating models and living the high life, but taxation paid for the hospital where he was born, the school where he was educated and the schools which paid his (teacher) parents' wages, the street lamps that lit his way home from rehearsals, and the benefits that sustained his bandmates when they were out of work.