Even though I don’t earn anywhere near as much money as Gary Barlow, I’m happy to pay tax because I live in this country and it’s my civic duty. It wasn’t illegal when Barlow – along with a couple of his Take That bandmates – hid £63m in the Icebreaker tax avoidance scheme, but he must have known he was doing wrong.
It annoys me when people argue: ‘Leave him alone – Gary Barlow works hard’. Normal people work fucking hard, whether you’re a journalist, plumber, builder or bus driver. There are people out there juggling three or four jobs just to bring in £25,000 per year. And out of that, the government takes at least twenty per cent of it away. He’s putting an extra burden on those on low incomes who are playing by the rules.
People complain endlessly about the government spending taxes wrong, whether it’s on roads we don’t need or on those they feel are ‘sponging off the state’, but those at the bottom of society rely on aid that’s funded by the highest paying tax bracket. There are vital public services that need maintaining like the NHS or transport, people who need benefits to help them back to work, others who need financial help because they have a debilitating illness and physically can’t work. If Gary Barlow’s hiding money, then he’s stopping these things from happening.
When The Rolling Stones avoided tax, they ran away from the country to live in France in exile. If Gary Barlow wanted to shirk his responsibility as a UK citizen, then he should have gone and lived in Argentina or something, but the fact he stayed here and did it as an ambassador for the country is galling. Like I say, he hasn’t done anything illegal, and if I met him, I’d be polite. I’m not upset at him personally, more at what he represents – and that’s a system where the wealthiest can afford not to pay their way.
Whether Barlow should keep his OBE is another debate – in my opinion, he should give it back. What he did was pretty fucking disgraceful. Mind you, I feel those kind of awards are meaningless. If I got one, I’d probably go and pick it up and give it to my mum, just to make her proud.
I haven’t lost touch with the value of money. I’ve got 12 first cousins who range from 18 to 28, and they’re teachers, taxi drivers, painters and decorators, and I see how hard it is for them in life financially and how they can’t afford certain things. They can’t go on nice holidays or buy certain clothes. It’s the same when I look out at my audience at my live shows. If I’ve got a 21-year-old cousin in that position, then I can look at a young kid at my gig and realise that 20-quid for him is a big deal.
If that’s how I feel, I wonder how Gary Barlow will feel when he has to look his fans in the eye?