David Cameron should resign. And I’m not just saying that because I never thought David Cameron should be Prime Minister in the first place.
Cameron admitted today – after four carefully-worded non-denials – that he and his wife Samantha profited for almost thirteen years from the offshore investment fund Blairmore Holdings, a trust set up by his father Ian Cameron, the existence of which has been revealed in the course of the ongoing Panama Papers leaks, the biggest of confidential documents in history. More details are set to emerge, and we shall have to see if they paint Cameron in any more or less of a damning light. Currently, the glare is pretty harsh.
As well as a implicating a number of Conservative donors, lords and former MPs, the revelations have had worldwide ramifications, the most high-profile of which has been the resignation of Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson when it was revealed “his wife owned an offshore company in the British Virgin Islands with multimillion-pound claims on Iceland’s three collapsed banks.”
Cameron should follow Gunnlaugsson’s lead. He made a conscious decision to, in 1997, take advantage of Panama’s favourable tax arrangements. To find his behaviour distasteful is not just classism directed upwards. He has not merely inherited privilege but actively chosen to embellish it. Only in January 2010, after four years as leader of the opposition, eight and a half as a Member of Parliament, and with everything indicating that he would become Prime Minister four months later, did Cameron sell his stake, because “I didn’t want anyone to say you’ve got agendas or vested interests and all the rest of it.”
“All the rest of it.” The “rest of it” presumably being the criticism Cameron has encountered his whole career – although more so of late with the litany of disasters striking his administration – that behind his “One Nation” rhetoric lies a total dearth of empathy with the average person and a craven desire to serve an ultra-rich elite.
“But this is what Tories do!” you say, provided you’re the sort of person who doesn’t vote Tory. But whilst Margaret Thatcher and John Major also arguably (I’m arguing it) served an ultra-rich elite, their own modest upbringings place them in stark contrast to Cameron, who wasn’t just born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but one that was diamond encrusted and already replete with caviar. It’s a lot more obvious that he serves an ultra-rich elite because he is so plainly part of one.
But to be a public servant is to abdicate certain behaviours typical of the ultra-rich elite. For example, given Cameron is such a Britain-loving, terrorist-sympathy-lacking, national anthem-singing patriot “and all the rest of it,” you’d assume he’d want to be contributing the maximum amount of money possible to his beloved country’s coffers. That he would choose to minimise the tax revenue the exchequer receives from him shows a David Cameron particularly unconcerned with the state of the public finances. But we’re all in it together! (Which reminds me, did the Tories or did they not get that from High School Musical?)
The standard strawman argument getting trotted out by some figures (I’m looking at you, John “lose Labour 50 seats then lecture everyone about electability” McTernan) is that Cameron’s critics are equating tax avoidance – which is all legal and above board – with tax evasion – which is not. But nobody’s saying Cameron broke the law; the horrifying thing is that he, and the countless others around the world implicated in the Panama Papers, didn’t have to. Systems in place now enabled them to deprive their countries of GDP, and it is a defeatist and cynical attitude to say we shouldn’t think about changing them – something Cameron as Prime Minister has done very little to do. Something needn’t be illegal to be detrimental to society, but that’s as good a reason as any to make it so.
Cameron has talked a tough talk on tax avoidance, but the Financial Times has revealed that in 2013 he “personally intervened” to “weaken an EU drive to reveal the beneficiaries of trusts, creating a possible loophole that other European nations warned could be exploited by tax evaders.” As with the recent steel crisis, people have used taxes as a stick with which to beat the EU, but in both cases the European government pushing the most detrimental policies seems to be the UK. This also bears all the hallmarks of the “low-tax economy,” Cameron keeps talking up, in which normal people pay their fair share whilst companies like Google pay an effective tax rate of around 3%. Meanwhile, George Osborne (who should also resign for his recent Catastrofuck Budget) has lowered corporation tax to the incredibly “competitive” (right-wing for “miniscule) rate of 17%, less than half of that in the über-socialist collectivisation party we call the USA. With taxes as low as that, the least we can do is collect them.
With Iain Duncan Smith resigning over the brutally unjust implications of welfare cuts he happily chugged on with for six years, British steel in crisis and the obvious move of Tata’s temporary nationalisation seeming distant as a result of blinkered ideology, teachers and doctors rising up against their respective Secretaries of State, and the Conservative Party bitterly divided over the European Union, off the emperor’s new clothes have proceeded to fall, and Cameron is beginning to look like a very bad Prime Minister.
Although Blairmore would be an appropriate nickname for Cameron given his hero worship for the older man, Tony Blair was certainly a better Prime Minister than Cameron, bringing millions out of poverty, introducing important civil liberties reforms like the Human Rights Act (which many Tories want to get rid of), and policies like the minimum wage that would prove so popular the Conservatives themselves would add them to their repertoire. In terms of Blair’s flaws – his misguided belief in the power of the market, and in humanitarian military intervention – Cameron has simply picked up where he left off.
Cameron is a worse Prime Minister than Gordon Brown, who in his final months in the job, after having practically saved the global financial system with his decisive banking bailout, actually managed to achieve a modicum of economic recovery, which was immediately stunted upon Cameron’s assumption of office by Osborne’s moronic austerity plan. And, what’s more, the David Cameron who currently presides over a Conservative majority government is a worse prime minister than the Cameron who ran the 2010-15 Coalition. From the liberal wing of his party, his problem is he’s got too many Tories to control now, and they all want something; from those who are appalled at the impact of his socially deleterious programme of cuts, to those who want the now-wishy-washy party to take a sharp turn to the right.
Whichever direction the Conservative Party goes in, it should be with a different leader. Cameron – who’s never seemed like a political or intellectual heavyweight; more a sort of gratingly “together” PR twat – no longer seems like a unifying force in his party, let alone the country. A combination of these new allegations, his poor recent performance and his openness about his lack of interest in staying in the job much longer means the time has come for him to hand it over to someone who really cares. I don’t like any of the prospective Conservative leaders, but their current one is irreparably tarnished.
Ideally, in such a tumultuous political situation an election would be called; I don’t much fancy four years of unelected George Osborne. I am uncertain as to whether Labour are currently in any fit state to fight a General Election. But that is beside the point for now, which is that David Cameron has proven himself unfit for office and should resign as soon as possible.