The Tories and Google: an object lesson in breaking promises and pal-o-mine politics

David Cameron very happy to be associated with a company avoiding over 90% of UK tax liability

“Ethics? Oh, about that much.”

When The Slog first started suggesting that ISPs like Orange are above the Law – because without them the Government’s security forces couldn’t perform their Stasi functions – the view I expressed was predictably dismissed as yet more paranoid libertarian conspiracy bollocks.

A few months after the first of these pieces appeared – in late 2009 – it became obvious (by deliberately planting stuff in my private emails for the Google robots to pick up  illegally) that despite all their protestations to the contrary, Google was spying on my gmail prose and passing on tips to third parties.

I approached a prominent West Country Conservative MP about this, and his initial response was classic: ‘as the service Google provides is free, you must expect that they have to make a profit somehow’. I sent off another missive to this chap (now a senior Cabinet member) pointing out that making a proft by lying illegality was perhaps a little out of order – and went on to lay other charges against Big G who, as we all know, Do No Evil.

The MP, to give him his due because he is an efficient local representative, looked into my complaint, and within a week sent me an email promising that ‘given these abuses of their position, once elected to Government we will be looking at getting organisations like Google under some kind of control’.

Great, I thought: democracy in action.

Then yesterday I read the Dacre Mail’s exposé of a Google/Tories tryst so blatantly improper, it almost makes their Newscorp attachments look innocent. Since June 2010, there have been 23 meetings between Tory Ministers and Google. Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has met them seven times, and the ubiquitous Jeremy *unt four times. The Chancellor too (in between yachting trips with Murdoch in the Aegean) has held four meetings with Google.

The standard spin about “Government needing to talk to all commercial concerns as a matter of course” can be quickly dismissed as bollocks.

Three employees at a senior level have moved both ways between the Party and the multinational in that time period – in order to feather their nests further their careers.

One of the executives who swapped jobs and went all Googly is Naomi Gummer, who until recently was Mr *unt’s political adviser. Old Jeremy, eh? A tongue up every finger in every pie.

During the 2006-7 period, Cameron spoke at Google conferences. Under his direction – presumably – other Ministers since May 2010 have also met the information giant: John Hayes at Education, Universities minister David Willetts, Business minister Baroness Wilcox, and Policy minister Oliver Letwin. Perhaps Mr Letwin wished to discuss with them the difficulties involved in disposing of sensitive data safely.

Former Number Ten supremo Steve Hilton remains a close friend of David Cameron. Hilton’s wife Rachel Whetstone is Global Head of Comms at Google in the US.

Lovely lovely lovely, so many lovely backs to scratch and arses to lick and lovely lovely ISPs to roll over to despite the fact that they avoid tax right, left and centre….yet more of those people (like Jeremy Rhyminge-Slange) with whom David Cameron alleagedly does not wish to be associated. Lovely lovely lovely.

Google? Avoid tax? Do Evil? Google sir? Are you entirely mad sir? Well Paul Dacre might be, but the Mail wouldn’t risk a libel writ by writing about Google’s UK tax policies as ‘only paying tax on a quarter of its UK income’. So let’s delve into this in a little more detail.

In the U.K., Google’s second-biggest market by revenue, the corporate tax rate is 28 percent. According to Bloomberg, ‘using a technique that moves most of its foreign profits through Ireland and the Netherlands to Bermuda, Google’s income shifting — involving strategies known to lawyers as the “Double Irish” and the “Dutch Sandwich” — help reduce its overseas tax rate to 2.4%, the lowest of the top five U.S. technology companies by market capitalization, according to regulatory filings in six countries.’

So if I can be a little more exact than the Daily Wail here, Google welches on just over 90% of its UK tax liabilities.

Yet the Prime Minister seems to be as keen as mustard to be asociated with them – and the feeling is mutual. Why on earth might this be?

I thought you might ask, so I have a few answers I prepared earlier. First, the Coalition is in the throes of preparing a Green Paper about the future of digital communications in the UK, under the umbrella of its proposed Communications Bill. There will be big prizes for those who come out of this process well….and who knows, perhaps even massive donations to the Conservative Party? Second, Google doesn’t want the hassle of clamping down on digital porn, because – on the quiet – it makes a shedload of money from it. Sources at Westminster are already suggesting that this element of the Communications Bill will be scaled down in order to placate such an important taxpayer.

But beneath all this grime, there lie deeper reasons. Following Labour’s disastrous £3bn write off of the monies involved in not Connecting For Health at all, the Government has quietly handed all the NHS records to Google for safe keeping. And the G-men will no doubt be acing as a cypher for GCHQ as and when they might want details of all those people. (Did you know that? I didn’t until yesterday). And in order to make any sense at all of the £13bn total surveillance budget already handed to GCHQ two years ago due to be passed into law, there is no UK security agency that will be able to do that without the cooperation of those Google folks who limit selling your data to 23 million households in Britain.

So there we have it. Cabinet Big Beast breaks promise. Jeremy Hunt cements another big business relationship. Prime Ministerial hypocrisy about tax avoidance in relation to both the Minister and the multinational. And rather like Newscorp, it’s all tied up with the future of broadcasting to, and surveillance upon, the citizen.

Nothing to see here. Move along please, it’s only the people we pay for selling out to spooks, tax avoiders and liars.

Related: Who does our Government really work for?