The Unmasking of David Cameron
The dust is finally beginning to settle after the Panama Papers revelations and finally, it appears, the British public are beginning to look at David Cameron in a different light. Over the course of his decade as Tory leader he built a public persona as a ‘safe pair of hands’, trustworthy, competent and likeable. An environmentalist, a compassionate conservative and a firm believer in an inclusive ‘Big Society’. The Panama Papers have led to the unmasking of David Cameron, exposing him to huge national and international interest something his slick public relations machine underestimated, misjudged and completely misunderstood.
We are of course dealing with a man who has successfully managed to sell austerity to the British public. His spin machine have successfully masked the fact that the government has privatised more state assets than Thatcher, slashed budgets for public services, brought the NHS to breaking point, increased the UK’s massive trade deficit whilst accumulating an eye-watering £1.5 trillion debt.
Yet David Cameron and his government have, until now, avoided intense scrutiny. Under any normal circumstances the Tory press and the media establishment would circle the wagons to protect their man, like they did when The Guardian ran a story on Ian Cameron’s tax affairs in 2012. But these are not normal circumstances. The poster boy for enforced austerity is now the poster boy for remaining inside the EU.
If you can damage the Cameron brand, you increase the chances of winning the EU referendum. So it came as no surprise when the pro Brexit press, along with his critics let rip on Cameron’s admission that he personally benefited from offshore funds.
- “I did have money offshore” (Daily Telegraph)
- “Cameron finally admits: yes, I benefited from tax-avoiding offshore fund” (The Guardian)
- “Cameron: I held shares in offshore tax haven” (The Times)
- “Cameron admits he made money from father’s Panama fund” (Financial Times)
- “PM: I did profit from tax haven” (Daily Mail)
- “Cameron: I did have offshore shares” (Daily Express)
- “PM’s secret £30,000 stashed in a tax haven” (Daily Mirror)
- “PM: I owned £30,000 shares in Dad’s offshore trust” (i)
- “PM’s £30k in offshore tax haven” (Metro)
There is therefore a slight irony in David Cameron’s comments on comedian Jimmy Carr’s tax affairs in 2012. He stated:
“Frankly some of these schemes where people are parking huge amounts of money offshore and taking loans back to just minimise their tax rates is not morally acceptable. Some of these schemes we have seen are quite frankly morally wrong. People work hard, they pay their taxes, they save up to go to one of his shows. They buy the tickets. He is taking the money from those tickets and he, as far as I can see, is putting all of that into some very dodgy tax avoiding schemes.” – David Cameron – June 2012
Despite the irony, there is something quite stark here. David Cameron made these comments knowing full well that his father ran a network of offshore investment funds to help build the family fortune. Though entirely legal, (like Jimmy Carr), Ian Cameron’s funds were set up in tax havens such as Panama City, Jersey and Geneva to deliberately avoid exposure to UK tax. David Cameron owned thousands of shares in Blairmore holdings whilst leading the Conservative Party in opposition and sold them in 2010. He showed complete hypocrisy and double-standards here.
Something he has shown throughout his political career.
Commenting back in 2005 when Cameron was running in the Conservative leadership contest, Jeff Randall (Sky News) stated:
“I wouldn’t trust him with my daughter’s pocket money … Watching Cameron pledge to make Britain ‘the best place in the world to do business’ reminded me just how slippery he was… In my experience, Cameron never gave a straight answer when dissemblance was a plausible alternative, which probably makes him perfectly suited for the role he now seeks: the next Tony Blair.”
Randall’s comments resonate now more than they did in 2005. Cameron is more evasive than ever during Prime Minister’s Questions. Issues relating to the chronic housing shortage in the UK, the funding crisis in the NHS and the current proposal (not in their 2015 manifesto) for the forced ‘academisation’ of the UK’s primary and secondary schools have failed to receive adequate responses from the despatch box.
He may be able to ‘duck and dive’ from his weekly tirade with Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn but the political fallout from the Panama Papers is a different proposition. He is, in the words of one Conservative backbencher “damaged goods”. Recent opinion polls have shown that. His trustworthy ratings have gone through the floor.
The UK electorate are now well used to spin and subterfuge from the Blair and Cameron era, but the latest scandal will undoubtedly lead people to question Cameron’s ulterior motives.
What are we to make of a man who visited Norway to check on the effects of global warming whilst riding with huskies? The man who wanted to lead the ‘greenest government in history’? The same man, who after winning a majority in 2015 scrapped the main progressive environmental policies the Liberal Democrats introduced during the coalition.
What are we to make of the man who promised during the 2015 election campaign not to cut tax credits? The same man who defended the proposed cut to tax credits for workers when they were rightfully defeated in the House of Lords.
What are we to make of man who had a vision of an all inclusive ‘Big Society’? The same man has overseen one million UK citizens relying on foodbanks, a rapid rise in child poverty and crushing cuts to benefits for the disabled.
The PR machine that surrounds David Cameron may be able to dodge and deflect attention to his regressive policies but the issues of tax avoidance and now the European referendum may well lead to his undoing.
So long as Europe remains on the agenda, it is people on his own benches and in the Tory press that will shine a spotlight on the Prime Minister and continue to expose him for what he really is…
Slippery, unprincipled and untrustworthy.