On Thursday, Gordon Brown started a world-wide petition on Avaaz to tackle tax avoidance. The petition is addressed to Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri, who Chairs the G20, as well as to the other G20 leaders.
Brown’s petition begins by saying:
“The level of global inequality is appalling -- 8 people own as much wealth as half the planet.”
The figure cited is a reference to the January 2017 report by Oxfam, which came to this conclusion.
The petition goes on to say that:
“And the gap is growing, thanks in part to the shadowy world of tax havens which lets trillions be syphoned offshore from our economies. Right now, the rich get richer, and the rest of us pay.
Eight years ago the G20 agreed it would shut down these practices. It's time to deliver. We call on you to act immediately to end tax havens and ensure that those that run and exploit them are held to account."
Labour’s most recent prime minister also says that he will deliver the letter – currently signed by just short of 800,000 people (as of noon Sunday 12th November) – directly to the Argentinian president if it gets one million signatures.
Gordon Brown’s recent appearance is a reminder of the political gravitas and intellectual dominance that the UK’s leaders used to have. His sharp mind and well-formed answers in his interview with Laura Kuenssberg contrast strikingly with Theresa May’s leadership and her recent (mis-)management of government in the last few weeks.
It’s impossible to tell whether Brown’s petition will make any difference. When it comes to international cooperation, world leaders tend to be slow and conservative. The fact that Brown is trying to finish something he started at the end of the last decade is a fine example of this. But clearly tax avoidance on a massive scale is an issue that will continue to foster outrage. Every new finding - like the Panama and Paradise Papers - must only be adding to the strain. How long will it be until the there is a dramatic shift in international cooperation on the issue?
Could we about to find out?