Panama. Papers are the least fun thing that’s come out of the country. Hats, Joyas de Panama cigars – even Noriega provided more entertainment. But fun or not, the Panama papers are certainly causing a stir.
Now, the hand of the flapometer is on ‘Major Flap’ as the British PM’s got everyone’s knickers in a twist. To blame: his father’s offshore fund that came to light in the monumental reveal from Mossack Fonseca.
Accusations are being slung like mud, the opposition’s smelling blood and baying in the parliamentary fields. People with fog-horn like voices are insisting he make an official statement – although quite what they expect him to add at this stage is beyond me. ‘And for breakfast, I had four shredded wheat and bought a yacht in the Caymans, just for shits and giggles?’ What more do they expect the man to say?
The human cost of all this is terrifying. If you look at the recent video of Cameron’s admission, you’ll see his eyes are all stress-bulgy, and he’s redder than usual. The papers are more hysterical than usual. And in conversation, three separate individuals have now asked me to locate Panama on a map for them, which is only tolerable once. The fallout from this affair continues.
The Prime Minister has definitely played his cards wrong – but the paradox is, he didn’t do anything illegal.
Let’s be clear. Cameron doesn’t own any shares in the Bahamas-based company. He sold his shares before he became Prime Minister. But even this is not the point. He could legally have kept his shares; he wasn’t breaking any laws. And he didn’t even break the law when he sold them; he declared it to the taxman.
The wrong play is in how he’s handled his confession-like reaction to the professional prodders and pokerers, after having previously spoken out against offshore tax avoidance. He hasn’t broken any law, but he’s broken a moral code. And as we all know, the middle classes are in love with morality; and as he is well aware, political revolutions start with discontented bourgeoisie.
The flapping and the baying that now surrounds him isn’t really about him. It’s about the fact that taxation law is extravagantly and flagrantly flawed. It’s about the fact that increasingly, ordinary people who pay tax are made to feel like they’re taking part in a voluntary self-harming exercise. And, of course, the press love a leader with his pants down, literally or metaphorically.
It’s also therapeutic to surf the indignant wave when tax avoiding companies like Amazon and Starbucks and Google have been so blatant in their dislike of paying UK tax.
Sigh. Now Cameron will have to choose his next move carefully. Personally, I recommend he rock up to the Commons, wearing his Panama and try:
‘The only sheltered status I have is this hat; and I’d eat it if it would shut all of you lot up.’
© gvons 2016