The President’s brain

The London mayoral election campaign this week has been focusing on tax planning, and hypocrisy. (For some background, see here.) This culminated in the contenders releasing details of their tax affairs. It looks as if everyone except Ken Livingstone disclosed full details.

The Spectator magazine’s blog says this:

“I suspect that three important consequences will flow from the release today of the London mayoral candidates tax returns. First, voters will see that Boris Johnson’s rage at Ken Livingstone on Tuesday as being thoroughly justified. Second, they’ll see that Ken Livingstone, despite all his left-wing rhetoric, is the only one of the four main candidates to have tried to make his affairs tax efficient.

The third consequence is that a precedent has now been set that politicians running for office should publish their tax returns. I’ll be shocked if one of the three party leaders doesn’t try and steal a march at the next election by volunteering to publish their information and challenging the others to do the same.”

It then goes on to say:

“One thing we should draw the line at, though, is the idea that candidates should publish their medical records. When I worked in Washington, I always found it bizarre — and slightly distasteful — that it was considered necessary for the public to be informed that George W Bush had put on a couple of pounds of weight.”

To which one commenter made my day with this sharp observation:

It would be nice to know if candidates for high office actually possessed a brain.

Nice one.

To me, the serious question with more strategic consequences, is not about tax or medical records, but about the quality of political candidates: what can we do to get high quality individuals – with integrity, intelligence, and application – as politicians?