Panama Papers pile pressure on PM

British Prime Minister David Cameron is under severe pressure following explosive revelations that he held investments in an offshore fund set-up by his late father. After days of trying to dodge questions about whether he profited personally from the Bahamas-based trust, the Prime Minister was finally forced to come clean last night in a specially arranged interview with ITV News. He admitted to possessing a £30,000 stake in the offshore company with his wife Samantha, which he sold just months before entering Downing Street in 2010. Mr Cameron also conceded that some of the £300,000 inheritance left to him by his father Ian may have come from offshore tax havens. Labour has seized on the PM’s disclosure by branding him a hypocrite, with the party’s deputy leader Tom Watson pointing out that it was Mr Cameron who had called people who invest in similar schemes ‘morally wrong’. Watson and other high-profile Labour MPs such as John Mann have called on him to resign, but others like Owen Smith have pointedly stopped short of it. Mr Cameron has sought to defend himself by saying he paid all the taxes owed on the shares when he sold them. He has also attempted to defuse the crisis now engulfing his premiership by committing to publish his tax returns.

Since their release the Panama Papers have proved political dynamite, blowing a hole in the secretive world of offshore finance and giving the public a rare insight into how the global elite manage their wealth. National leaders from Russian President Vladimir Putin to the Prime Minister of Icleand Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson, who was forced to resign, have been implicated. Although Mr Cameron is adamant that he has done nothing wrong and that the trust was not established by his father as a means to avoid tax, it is likely significant damage has been inflicted on his reputation. Throughout his time in office, Mr Cameron has been dogged by accusations that he is out of touch because he hails from a wealthy and privileged background. Consequently, these leaks will only serve to reinforce negative perceptions of him. At a time when he is locked in the biggest battle of his political life, trying to persuade the British electorate to vote to remain in the EU, the timing could not be worse for the PM.

Chris Warne

Hill & Knowlton Strategies Search