Well I’ve decided to make ‘Clueless or Clued up?’ an actual feature of this blog. Each week I will pick one notable public figure or celebrity and analyse whether or not they were Clueless or Clued up.
David Cameron, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain. In the past few days it has emerged that one of the worlds largest and most secretive law firms, Mossack Fonseca, has been helping the extremely wealthy to avoid tax. Tax avoidance itself is not illegal, it is however, to put it very lightly, frowned upon. An unknown whistleblower leaked millions (11.5 million to be exact/2.6TB of data) of confidential documents from Mossack Fonseca in what has been called the biggest data leak in history. Hundreds have been vindicated by the documents, just hours ago the Prime Minister of Iceland resigned over his own personal controversy. The Presidents of Argentina & Ukraine, the Prime Minister of Iceland (since resigned), Pakistan and a former PM of Qatar. The King of Saudi Arabia, a former emir of Qatar as well as high ranking FIFA officials and Lionel Messi. And those are just the most notable clients, close friends of Vladimir Putin and the families of Chinese officials are also on the list.
What does David Cameron have to do with this? Cameron’s father Ian, who passed away in 2010, was a director of Blairmore holdings. An investment fund previously based in the Bahamas which at one point held up to $100,000,000 of which, the Guardian claims didn’t pay a single penny of tax in 30 years. Now of course it is based in Ireland is is privy to European financial laws.
So the question at hand? Just how clued up was DC regarding this fund?
The Guardian seem to have led the way in attacks against the PM and are quite insistent upon his guilt. However, lets begin with an official statement on the controversy.
A No 10 spokesperson said: “To be clear, the Prime Minister, his wife and their children do not benefit from any offshore funds. “The Prime Minister owns no shares. “As has been previously reported, Mrs Cameron owns a small number of shares connected to her father’s land, which she declares on her tax return.”
The issue has been raised that nobody has clarified whether Cameron benefited from this in the past or will in the future, I feel however that this is a fundamentally unfair position to take, if the PM did/will benefit could be unclear even to him given that it was his father who owned the shares. Of course, the money within had to go somewhere. It is not unlikely that the Prime Ministers older brother Alexander (who inherited a larger proportion of the estate than his brother) is more privy to this sensitive information given his (legal) profession.
However, what is more surprising than a politician having his hands in too many pockets is how badly that politician dealt with it. Throughout his career, David Cameron has shown an acute skill when handling PR and he has been helped by the skillful Sir Lynton Crosby. On this occasion however, he bungled the whole affair. Beginning with incredibly evasive “In terms of my own financial affairs, I own no shares…)” and this was followed up by more and more statements that were neither here nor there until finally he pursued the only option available to him which was to publish his surprisingly innocent tax return.
My personal presumption is that the Prime Minister believed the whole thing would simply blow over, which, thanks to his evasive statements it did not, it is understandable of course that he did not wish to besmirch his late fathers name.
It is easy of course to say that if I had been in his position I would have published my tax returns straight away. But put yourself in David Cameron’s shoes. He is the PM of one of the busiest, most powerful countries in the world. Yet, he is expected to remember details of long sold investments as well as every aspect of the countries foreign, fiscal, internal policies and more. He was never going to be able to publish an accurate statement straight away and so I agree that it was wise to delay doing so. It was a difficult decision, it will have taken his accountants time to trawl through dozens of documents trying to ascertain whether or not he had something to actually fear from the Panama Papers fallout. To say that was happening would also have elicited shouts of scandals and cover ups. All David Cameron could realistically have done, is choose his words more carefully. In an age where answers must be instant, he could not provide one without risking falsifying that answer. He was somewhat foolish, but he has survived a scandal that would have crushed lesser politicians.
I personally find it extremely unlikely that Cameron had no knowledge of the fund and I am sure he will have benefited in some secondary form from his fathers wealth. I do however feel that given the Prime Ministers long term political ambitions that his family would have been wise enough to keep him from such nefarious activities.
To finish up, there is simply not enough information available to come to a definitive conclusion. However, I simply do not believe David Cameron is not clever enough to have buried this information if that had been within his power.