Bernard Ginns: Po-faced business columnist takes bookings

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IT WAS probably the drinks promotion on offer, but my speech to the Yorkshire Managers networking group at the Hedley Verity pub on Monday night was a complete sell-out.

After 45 minutes on two of my favourite subjects - journalism and The Yorkshire Post - a member of the audience made his over way to me and introduced himself as a former colleague of late great Yorkshire business leaders Sir Gordon Linacre and Victor Watson CBE.

“I read your column every week and I must say that in person you are completely different,” he began. Oh really, I said. In what way?

“Your column is po-faced when your speech tonight was anything but.”

I couldn’t help but laugh at the feedback. I’m sorry readers, but I do take my writing seriously. But if I took the same approach to speech-writing you’d all be asleep by the end.

It was a good lesson and I promise to be less serious in future in these columns. Unless the topic demands it, of course.

And I’m taking bookings for public speaking engagements.

On Thursday, I had the pleasure of visiting Timothy Taylor, the historic brewer of Keighley.

It is the epitome of a well-run family-owned company that invests for the long term and has cultivated a strong reputation over many years for some very good products, such as the mighty Landlord and, more recently, Boltmaker, the holder of Camra’s coveted Champion Beer of Britain 2014 title.

The purpose of my visit was to meet the new chief executive, Tim Dewey, who is the first non-family member to lead the business since it was founded in 1858.

Mr Dewey is an American who has been working in the UK for nearly 30 years and holds not only a British passport but also some strong views on the recent political debate about non-domiciles.

Labour leader Ed Miliband won lots of headlines with his vow to scrap non-dom tax status, as part of his well-meant but ill-thought through mission to make Britain a fairer place for working people.

The 200-year-old rule applies to the 116,000 people who reside in the UK but have their permanent home elsewhere.

They can opt to only pay tax on income that is brought into the country and pay no UK tax on their earnings or capital gains outside the country.

“I think the whole non-dom thing is completely ludicrous and it will actually cost the UK money,” said Mr Dewey.

“I would put a wager on it that if Labour get in and they introduce that policy, that when it is analysed X number of years down the road, they will find that it cost them.”

Mr Dewey added: “People who have large assets outside the UK will not be happy to be taxed on those and live in the UK. They don’t have to live in the UK. They are flexible.... The net effect will be not only will we not gain what the non-dom rule is there to gain, we will lose the revenue that they are bringing to the country.”

Mr Dewey gained British citizenship five years ago after many years as a non-dom. He maintains that the status not only never saved him money but for a number of years he paid more tax as a US citizen living and working in the UK than if he had been a UK citizen.

Last year, it is reckoned that non-doms contributed £8.2bn in tax, as much as 10m low-income workers.

Mr Dewey recalled a recent newspaper article that highlighted the amount of economically illiterate policies coming from parties of all persuasions in this general election campaign.

“I’m a straight shooter on things,” he said. “The problem we have got with politics at the moment - this is going to sound ludicrous - everyone is being political. In other words, everybody doesn’t really want to tell people the challenges we actually face and the reality, what that actually means.”

That would make them unelectable.