A taxing time for David Cameron

The revelations in the Panama Papers are dizzying — one complex story after another emerging from an inconceivably huge data dump.
Which is why the questions around David Cameron’s tax affairs have dominated the headlines — it’s so much easier to understand.
It’s barely a revelation, though, that the Prime Minister is a wealthy man from a wealthy background.
If any scandal lurks here, it’s that Mr Cameron’s made so many elementary political blunders — indicative of the extent to which his eye is off the ball.
Slowly, the full situation was dragged out of Downing Street, from its insistence this was all a “private matter” on Monday to Thursday’s admissions that the Prime Minister had, months before entering Downing Street, sold investments worth £30,000.
You might imagine the Prime Minister would by then have decided to leave out nothing that could cause further headlines. Until the weekend brought news of a £200,000 gift from his mother, on top of a £300,000 inheritance from his late father — structured in such a way that the sums are unlikely to be taxed.
It’s important to point out no laws have been broken, and at no time has anyone lied about Mr Cameron’s finances. The sins are of omission — releasing only as much information as was felt essential, until more was dragged out the next day.
But the David Cameron of two years ago would have recognised the damage this would do — how easily it conformed to the narrative of a rich, privileged man with no understanding of the struggles of ordinary people.
As with almost everything else at the moment — it’s all down to the EU referendum.
That debate is sucking all the oxygen from the room, so completely dominating opinion that the Prime Minister and his advisors are stumbling from one mishandled press release to the next.
It’s also soured the mood inside the Conservative Party, with rival factions in no mood to be helpful to each other. At the very time he needs all the friends he can muster, Mr Cameron may find some of his own colleagues less than supportive.
Is this the end for David Cameron? Probably not. But it’s a sign of a leader starting to drift towards the exit door.
Win or lose in June, there’ll be more of these kind of problems, as the Conservatives look beyond their current leader, to consider what — or who — might come next.
 


There'll be more on the tax row in the next episode of political podcast Party Games. You can listen, and subscribe here.