Andrew Fisher, the chief policy adviser to Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, last night jumped into the simmering row about the BBC’s annual sports review show by suggesting that if Lewis Hamilton wants to win Sports Personality of the Year, then the multi-millionaire racing driver needs to pay his taxes.
The BBC showpiece SPOTY once again attracted plenty of controversy.
This began with the hand-picked short-list of six contenders, branded “a complete disgrace” by some on Twitter, as the public was denied the opportunity to vote for many of their own favourites. The short-list shortcomings also included that it had only two women, neither of whom made it into the male-dominated top three, and that the contenders notably excluded the heavyweight boxing champion Anthony Joshua.
In another break with usual practice, and one only likely to draw suspicion, the BBC refused to publish the voting scores for the contenders after the winners were announced.
The live show hardly ran smoothly, either, with presenter Claire Balding interrupting one prize-winner, amputee racing driver Billy Monger, before he had managed to thank his parents in his acceptance speech.
Less controversial was the choice of former Crystal Palace player Gareth Southgate as coach of the year for steering England into the World Cup semi-finals.
Formula 1 world champion Hamilton was named runner-up in SPOTY, ahead of Harry Kane, the Tottenham striker who captains England and was the top-scorer in the World Cup tournament.
But both were beaten by Geraint Thomas, the Tour de France cycle race winner.
Even this was a matter of some controversy, since Welshman Thomas is a member of Team Sky, which has been been mired in doping controversies for the past three years.
Hamilton did win the BBC accolade in 2014, and has twice before finished runner-up, though his world-beating performance in the Mercedes McLaren this year, winning 11 grands prix to take him to the world title for a fifth time seemed to surpass all his previous achievements. The 33-year-old Briton has now won the world title the same number of times as Juan Fangio, and is two behind record-holder Michael Schumacher.
This prompted some on social media to question the BBC’s voting, and which drew an acid response from Fisher, the South Norwood resident and Labour policy chief.
“Lots of people asking: ‘What does Hamilton have to do to be recognised as SPOTY?'” Fisher wrote.
“A: Pay his tax?”
Hamilton’s personal wealth is estimated at £131million, and he spends much of the year living as a tax exile in Monte Carlo. Last year the racing driver was exposed in the Paradise Papers as having used highly geared accountancy vehicles to get a £3.7million VAT refund on the purchase of a £16million private jet by using an Isle of Man scheme, through which he “rented out” his own aircraft to himself.
Fisher is a keen Tweeter, with 7,400 followers of his personal account. But his fondness for social media has caused him trouble in the past, such as when he was suspended from the Labour Party for some sarcastic remarks about a Blairite who had been selected to stand for Labour in Croydon at the 2015 General Election.
A one-time contributor to this website, Fisher is the author of The Failed Experiment and a regular contributor to the website of the Left Economics Advisory Panel, where many of the policies later included in Labour’s acclaimed and radical For The Many, Not The Few 2017 election manifesto were aired.
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