This week has, by his own admission, not been a good one for David Cameron. He has received unrelenting criticism for various aspects of the so-called Panama Papers, however very little of this criticism is actually valid.
The first point to note is that at no point has the Prime Minister broken the law. He has been engaging in tax avoidance, not tax evasion. To many this may sound like a pedant’s dispute over lexicon (a fact of which political opponents and the media alike have taken full advantage) however the fine line between them is the fine line of the law, and thus far Mr Cameron has stayed on the right side of it. Indeed, independent financial advisers have analysed the tax returns which he was bullied into publishing and verified that there has been no wrongdoing.
It is also important to note that many of the attacks have come not at his actions, but at those of his late father. It is wholly unfair to blame David Cameron for this, and equally unfair to criticise him for benefitting from this – he was his son, of course he benefited from his father’s wealth!
One argument pursued especially strongly by Labour is that it is these offshore loopholes only benefit the superrich. However this too is an invalid claim. Anybody with an insurance package and anybody with a pension almost certainly benefits from offshore activity, so this is by no means exclusive to the elites.
The most recent revelations have been a gift from David Cameron’s mother to him, supposedly to avoid paying inheritance tax. This is also entirely conventional and extremely common. Anybody wishing to criticise the concept of inheritance as unearned wealth is simply jealous. It is the aim of most parents to be able to leave their children a healthy inheritance, so the mere fact that she has achieved this goal is something for which she should be praised, not slated.
Why then is this such a big story? The short answer is that it sells newspapers. People want to read about a scandal involving senior politicians (just look at the ‘pig incident’, which turned out to be entirely untrue) so journalists spun this in such a way as to make him look like criminal of the century. Papers normally sympathetic to him, such as The Telegraph, have latched onto this story not because of the issue at hand, but to undermine Mr Cameron in the hope that it will influence the Brexit debate. Meanwhile other parties have jumped on the bandwagon calling for his resignation over what is a complete non-story.