The Panama Papers dropped on April 3rd and the list of people implicated seemed to be longer than the list of people not – from Simon Cowell to the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, and of course, David Cameron’s father. Cue a week of the UK Prime Minister failing to stand up to scrutiny on the question of whether he had been a beneficiary of his father’s tax avoidance fund, including the really quite priceless soundbite, “I obviously can’t point to the source of every bit of money”, before Cameron finally admitted, yes, he had.
Party leaders published their tax returns in a strange “who can be more honest” accountability contest. Some people defended Cameron, some protesters and MPs called for his resignation, and Dennis Skinner had to leave the House of Commons after refusing to retract his “Dodgy Dave” comment on Monday. The outrage has been widespread.
It is the rightful outrage at this issue which led Iceland’s PM to resign, and many people hoped that Cameron would stand down too, but to no avail. Cameron should resign, but we should be clear: this is not the only way in which he and his government have been abusing the trust of the general public since 2010. We also need to make sure that some more meaningful change would come out of it. After Iain Duncan Smith was replaced by equally suspect Stephen Crabb, it is hard to say Cameron’s resignation would not make things worse either.
David Cameron has overseen some of the most harmful policies and actions his government could carry out – ‘fit for work’ judgements literally killing disabled and chronically ill people and the steady destruction of the NHS through privatisation and harmful changes to junior doctors’ contracts, to name but a few. He has overseen the unfair deportation of thousands of students, a failure to act against the abuse of women of colour in detention centres like Yarl’s Wood, the deaths of trans women who were wrongly sent to male prisons, academies, cuts to welfare benefits. The list goes on and on.
I do not just want to see him resign for tax avoidance; I want to see him fully held accountable for every act of injustice he has presided over. And I do not want the power vacuum he would leave behind filled by yet another David Cameron, or worse. I want to see the systems and ideologies driving our economy and government completely changed, and for the better.
Tax is the tip of the iceberg. In the current economic system, everyone paying their taxes still would not suddenly overturn poverty and systematic suffering on its own. Would things be better if David Cameron had not been part of a scheme which funnelled tax money away from the UK?
Not really, because the whole system necessitates that there must be poverty – justified because that’s “just the way it is”, when really, that’s just the way they want it to be. David Cameron resigning alone or paying his taxes (or both; frankly, that would be great) would not put an end to the ideological bashing the welfare state and marginalised people in the UK face on a daily basis.
I still want Cameron to resign, desperately, for this and for everything else, including #piggate. But I am not willing to believe that his resignation alone, and more transparency about how our politicians pay their taxes, would actually solve the underlying issues. Not unless you actually fill that resignation power vacuum with something more meaningful. Not unless you get to the root of the ideas which mean those in power can avoid tax while claiming life-threatening austerity measures are the only solution, and fight them.
Image credit: Flickr: Mercian Media