Those outside the world of tax might not appreciate quite what an influence Margaret Hodge has had on it.
Through her leadership qualities and quiet, behind-the-scenes, consensus building she led a cross-party committee to the heart of one of the most politicised issues of the last Parliamentary term: tax avoidance. To do this whilst maintaining its unity is a remarkable achievement.
Under her leadership, that Committee drove questions of tax and tax avoidance to the top of the political agenda. That achievement kept the political pressure on the Coalition Government to deliver on tax avoidance. And, politically inconvenient to the left though it is, the truth is that, on tax avoidance at least, the Coalition Government responded. It is impossible to know the extent to which responsibility for those legislative changes can be attributed to the work of the Public Accounts Committee. But on any view considerable credit is due to it and to her.
Tax avoidance can’t merely be tackled through changes in the law. It requires public engagement too. Through her acute analysis of the pressure points of, particularly consumer facing, businesses she achieved a number of voluntary changes in corporate behaviour. The effects of this positive drift will continue to be seen.
And we should not forget the important role she played in achieving those (regrettably, still modest) enhancements in HMRC’s public accountability that were delivered during the course of the last Parliament.
And she did all of this whilst finding the time to support and develop the effectiveness of Labour Party activists.
The tax profession, by and large, will be delighted to see the back of her. It’s right to acknowledge that one can’t walk a highwire for five years without occasionally falling off. But, nevertheless, I struggle to see any other serious claimant to the title of most influential Opposition MP of the last Parliamentary term. Who else, after all, can lay claim to have inspired two words: a Hodging and a MarGarotting?