WE are witnessing catastrophic falls from grace at such a rate that it is hard to keep up. As the sexual harassment scandal continues, we now discover more shocking revelations about the UK’s tax-avoidance schemes for the ultra-wealthy through offshore bank accounts, all with a nod and a wink from their friends in government.

What’s new I hear you say? Unfortunately, there have always been loopholes in place for the elite to benefit from complicated financial schemes unavailable to the ordinary Joe or Joanne on the street.

This time, however, no-one is safe from this bonfire of vanities. Apple, Starbucks and Google have all come under fire in the past for shirking their tax responsibilities in Britain. But now, even the Queen’s integrity is in question over her involvement in offshore investments. And surely no amount of hiding in toilets from journalists can save Tory grandee, Lord Ashcroft’s reputation with his money greedily hidden abroad.

Just imagine what all that unpaid tax could have done funneled back into the UK to protect our public services like the NHS. Just think of this Government’s cruel austerity measures that have forced people into poverty and reliance on food banks while the rich feather their luxurious nests in secret. It’s eye-wateringly unfair.

We live in strange times where everything many of us normally take for granted is being shaken to the core. In recent years, the Church and State have been laid bare by a series of scandals and misdemeanors, of broken promises, deceit and far-reaching abuses of privilege and power.

Now the Crown is under scrutiny. I hope the true extent of offshore tax avoidance via the Paradise Papers will become apparent over the coming weeks but I worry that, just as has happened in the past, these uber-rich people will close ranks and use their considerable power and influence to protect themselves and their money from deep scrutiny.

Meanwhile, while the Tories continue to give with one hand to the elite, they take away with the other, offering no hope to careful savers, or those dutifully paying their tax but crippled by the rise in the cost of living, to those whose disability benefits are being withdrawn, or women like the WASPIs, denied their pension rights after years of paying into the public purse. What’s most awful about this is that none of it is illegal. It’s been going on for years in plain sight, bolstered by economic policy.

It’s a throw back to the “I’m alright Jack” attitude that took hold during the dark days of Thatcher Britain, where she encouraged the accumulation of individual wealth, and praised the lack of society, the lack of a community working together for the common good. Thirty or so years later, the Tory party is still up to its neck in it, with major donor and former party chairman Lord Ashcroft a reluctant star in the tax haven drama for sheltering his millions in Bermuda-based accounts.

In their recent Conservative manifesto, the Tories promised to stop aggressive tax avoidance schemes but headlines this week suggest that leopards don’t change their spots and this pledge is not worth the paper it’s written on. The EU is currently proposing new legislation on tax evasion and avoidance, and money laundering. But time is running out. Brexit is just around the corner. After 2019, Westminster will be under no pressure to comply with new European financial transparency legislation unless we stay in the Single Market. It’s surely no coincidence then that Tory Brexiteers are so enthusiastic about leaving an EU hellbent on cracking down on tax havens.

Fewer restrictions, or red tape as they like to call it, mean more opportunity to work an already skewed system that unfairly favours the wealthy. And Brexit will bring a bonanza of deregulation for the elite to enjoy, creating even deeper divisions between the haves and the have-nots. The bottom line is that when people don’t pay their fair share of tax, it’s the poor, the vulnerable, the sick and the young who suffer. Is it unrealistic to expect our governing bodies to do more than pretend to stop these gross inequalities? Is it pie-in-the-sky to want to live in a society that’s not based on undeserved privilege, backroom handshakes, and jobs for the boys?

It all comes down to maths in the end. With £120 billion lost in tax avoidance and evasion, the Tory government surely can’t hide from the devastation of this scandal for much longer. If this government collapses under the strain of sleaze and greed, then another election is just around the corner. If that’s the case, it’s vital that voters wake up and take a stand against corruption, before it’s too late.