No sooner do I want to see David Cameron’s tax return than I’d wish to examine the laundry basket where he puts his used underpants.
But from now on, apparently, we’re going to get no choice. By allowing himself to be bullied into revealing every last detail of his income, our current Prime Minister has now set a precedent which future prime ministers – and Chancellors and Leaders of the Opposition – will be obliged to follow.
How is democracy going to be served by this new licensed prurience?
Well, you can tell already by observing the kind of people making the most mileage out of this affair.
They are: the far-left Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn; the even-further-left Labour Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell; the tax-avoiding Guardian newspaper; the tax-exploiting, left-wing propaganda organisation the BBC; the masked, black-clad Class War anarchists who protested outside 10 Downing Street with the banner showing lots of graves, with the message “We have found new homes for the rich”; the Labour party; people who’ve never earned enough – or even worked at all – to pay tax themselves but feel comfortable dictating how much others should pay; chippy, envious busybodies.
Of course you expect the left to stoke up envy, class hatred, rich-bashing and demands for greater bureaucratic scrutiny: it’s what they do.
What you don’t expect, though, is that a Conservative prime minister should be endorsing it.
Some people are feeling sorry that Cameron is having his financial affairs exposed in this way. I’m not because he totally asked for it.
David Cameron’s weakness is not that he comes from a wealthy, privileged background, is married to an even richer woman, and had the best education money can buy. David Cameron’s weakness is – and always has been – that through cowardice and lack of ideological backbone he has persistently squandered advantages that should have been strengths.
On Eton he could have said: “Yup, I was lucky enough to have won the education lottery. That’s why I’m so determined to bring into our state system in line with the rigour and quality of Eton.”
On his stockbroking Dad, he could have said: “Yep, my family made our money in finance. So there’s no one better placed to understand the importance of the City to our economy and the need to protect it from EU legislation written by envious Frenchmen and Germans….”
On money he could have said: Of course, a privileged ponce like me is never going to understand what it’s like to be poor. But what I can promise you is this: if you’re prepared to work for it, I will do more than any Prime Minister there has ever been, to make it as easy as I can for you to become as rich as me.”
On inherited privilege he could have said: “I can’t help my background, any more than anyone else can help theirs. But that’s what’s great about Conservatism. We don’t judge anyone on where they came from; we just want to give everyone every opportunity to improve their lot.”
Instead, Cameron has always played the disgraceful game played also by his even more Machiavellian and less principled Chancellor George Mandelborne in tweets like this one:
Tax evasion is not just illegal it’s immoral.People evading tax should be treated same as common thieves.This agreement helps us tackle them
— George Osborne (@George_Osborne) October 29, 2014
What this does, as Janet Daley so rightly said in a Telegraph column titled By demonising the superrich David Cameron set himself up for a fall, is to imply – bizarrely – that there’s something wrong with trying to avoid paying more tax than you legally have to.
But more important was a major rhetorical revolution that took dangerous liberties with the vocabulary of what was being discussed. The Government began to obscure the difference between tax evasion, which is a crime, and tax avoidance – which is what you do when you invest in an ISA, or engage in what used to be called “financial planning”.
Hence my irritation in the piece I wrote last week called Only embittered lefties give a damn about Panama. It’s not that I don’t care about dictators and other crooked politicians raping their economies and then squirrelling away their money in tax havens. Obviously, I’m as annoyed as anyone by the hypocrisy of politicians who think they should be exempt from the laws they impose on everyone else. But I could see where this story was going and I’ve been proved right by its subsequent development in the media: yet again – as almost everything is these days – it’s being exploited as yet another excuse to demand more bureaucracy and less freedom while bashing the ‘rich.’
Well whatever you think of the rich, they’re the ones who create the wealth that pays for our holidays, our under gardener and our medical care.
As the Mail puts it in a blistering editorial today:
The richest 1 per cent in Britain today pay 27 per cent of all income tax, while the top 10 per cent pay well over half, at 55 per cent (so much for the charge that they don’t pay their fair share).
Without their effort and enterprise, a huge burden would fall on the 12 per cent of workers who pay no income tax at all, while the welfare state would collapse.
What’s sad is that the Mail felt the need to write such an editorial, which it wouldn’t have done if Britain had a half-way Conservative prime minister.
Because I knew Dave at Oxford, some people have bizarrely suggested that the reason I’m forever railing against his crapness is because I’m somehow envious of his success.
But it’s really not that. Quite the opposite actually. It’s because I’m forever piqued by his failure to do anything even remotely Conservative.
I wasn’t expecting much – well, not when it became clear, as it did early on, that Cameron was much more the heir to Ted Heath than to Margaret Thatcher. But I do think the very least we might have hoped for from a Conservative prime minister was that at least he’d leave the country in a slightly better state for those of us who believe in entry-level Conservative stuff like personal responsibility, hard work being rewarded, government getting out of the way wherever possible, national security, a healthier economy, and so on.
He hasn’t though. Really he hasn’t. David Cameron is a bloody idiot.