FOR some reason the following scenario came to mind on hearing David Cameron defend his “hardworking and wonderful Dad” Ian Cameron.
Daddy Cameron sits before the fire, covered in money dust. It’s been a long day at the coin-face, and his back is aching from digging up all that money and then burying it somewhere else where the taxman won’t fall over it. Young David watches his father, grubbed in money, as he prepares for his nightly bath, and in that moment he realises that all the money-shovelling is paying for his fees at the Eton village school, and he feels great love for his father, and swears that one day he will carry on the family tradition and put all wealth creation to proper use…
So there you have it – David Cameron, a posh man’s DH Lawrence.
What did we learn yesterday from the prime minister’s statement to the Commons? Well, he laid on the filial devotion with a silver-plated trowel for starters. This would be fair enough in private, but he seemed to be going over the top here in using private love for public reasons.
Most sons love their fathers in some way or other – it’s how the relationship works. If you ask me, Cameron’s lump-in-throat moment was essentially a distraction, and a clear bit of spin policy worked out over the past few days, with assorted ministers making statements along similar lines.
He had to do something to contain the toxic fallout from the Panama Papers and the questions about his tax affairs, and those of his father. So he made a shield from his no doubt perfectly genuine love for his father, yet he did this as a way of hiding – and as a bit of emotional blackmail.
Mind you Cameron is not the only prime minister to come thick with the father love. Gordon Brown often spoke of his church minister father John in terms of glowing reverence, once saying in a suitably biblical manner: “He towered before me like a mountain, not in any way forbidding but in the sense of his strength.”
So what essentially did we learn from David Cameron making his tax affairs public; or apparently doing so for how do we know for sure? It’s hard to say really, except that it reinforced what we already knew: in most people’s terms he is super-rich and a member of the wealthy elite who control our lives (hedge-fund managers –modern versions of Ian Cameron – contributed half of all donations to the Conservative Party at the last election in a bout of mutual back-scratching, money looking after money).
We also learned that money breeds money, but we knew that already. A telling detail was that by living in Downing Street, David and Samantha Cameron have earned £430,000 (after expenses) from renting out their £3.5 million West-London home in the five years up to March last year. So the man leading the party that harried and pursued council tenants over having a spare room was benefitting very nicely from his own personal spare house tax.
Will all this flourishing of tax bills be enough to bury the potentially harmful notion that he is a member of a moneyed elite who arrange things to their own best benefit?
George Osborne made a similar tax announcement, and the most telling aspect of this was the way he referred to the bonus he receives from the family firm – which he referred to as the family “manufacturing business”. Strictly speaking this is true, but come on George – it’s a posh wallpaper business, so don’t make it sound like a steel mill.
Jeremy Corbyn had a last-minute scrabble to find his tax form, which stirred up mockery in the Commons but was in truth oddly endearing: aren’t we often all like that, unable to put on hands on an important piece of paper?
The Labour leader also was mocked by some Tories for having no savings. Well, again, that is not uncommon – besides David Cameron doesn’t have savings so much as oodles of inherited wealth. Which must be nice but it’s not exactly a virtue.