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Cameron to Panama Papers Protesters: 'Blame Me'

Image: Cameron to Panama Papers Protesters: 'Blame Me'

Saturday, 09 Apr 2016 01:38 PM

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron said he’s to blame and will learn lessons from this week’s furor over his investments in an offshore fund set up by his father, as he sought to draw a line under one of the worst weeks of his premiership.

“It’s not been a great week,” Cameron told Conservatives at the party’s Spring Forum in central London, as he hit the campaign trail ahead of mayoral and local elections next month. “I know that I should have handled this better, I could have handled this better; I know there are lessons to learn and I will learn them.”

Cameron told the conference he will publish details of his tax affairs for this and past years “later on.”

By publishing his tax details, Cameron is trying to stem a crisis that’s hit him over his personal financial affairs at a time he’s trying to hold together a party that’s fractured over the June 23 in-out referendum on Britain’s European Union membership. In a sign that the controversy may still have some way to go, Cameron’s speech happened at the same time as hundreds of protesters gathered outside his Downing Street residence calling on him to crack down on tax evasion. Some demonstrators wore Hawaiian shirts after the protest’s Facebook page urged them to come to the event in clothes that gave off "tropical offshore vibes."

Cameron gave in to intense pressure earlier this week and confirmed that he once owned a stake in an offshore fund linked to his father, a revelation that emerged from the Panama data leak.

Publish Information

 “Later on I’ll be publishing my information that goes into my tax return not just for this year but for the years gone past because I want to be completely transparent and open,” Cameron said. “I’ll be the first prime minister, the first leader of a major party to do that, but I think it’s the right thing to do.”

The acknowledgment on Thursday that he sold about 30,000 pounds ($42,000) of shares in his father’s fund shortly before he became prime minister drew accusations of hypocrisy.

Cameron said Saturday that he had paid tax on the shares. He also sought to deflect blame for his handling of the affair away from his staff, after the information was eked out of him in five separate statements over the course of the week.

Downing Street

“Don’t blame Number 10 Downing Street or nameless advisers, blame me,” he said, to applause from the audience of Tory activists.

At Saturday’s protest, which started at 11 a.m. local time outside Downing Street, a couple of hundred demonstrators remained by noon, with some festooned in flowery garlands and others wearing colorful clothes. One demonstrator referred in an interview to Cameron’s condemnation of the comedian Jimmy Carr as immoral in 2012 after he was reported to be sheltering money from tax.

“Since he’s been prime minister he’s been calling to close tax loop holes, and he’s been saying that offshore tax havens are immoral,” said the protester, James Cracknell, 30, who brandished a beach ball and a vuvuzela horn. “He’s been a hypocrite the whole time along, and now all of a sudden he’s admitted that he’s doing it himself, so he’s basically admitting that he himself is immoral, and that’s not the kind of person we want as prime minister.”

Multiple Crises

The furor hit Cameron at a time when he’s fighting multiple crises. In addition to his party’s divisions over the EU referendum, the government is struggling to answer questions about how it will prop up the country’s steel industry.

Cameron isn’t the only prominent figure to be dragged into the so-called Panama Papers controversy, following the leak of millions of documents from a law firm detailing attempts to avoid tax. It has already forced the Icelandic prime minister and two European banking executives to resign and is also causing problems for Argentine President Mauricio Macri.

Macri said this week he will put his assets in a blind trust after a prosecutor said there were grounds to investigate him following revelations of his involvement in two companies listed in Panama.

More than 20 nations have announced probes and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development will host a meeting on April 13 to discuss cross-border tax compliance issues stemming from the leaks.

Back in the U.K., Cameron is hoping that the issue will soon be forgotten as the EU referendum draws closer. Before that, there are elections in 124 local councils in May as well as mayoral polls in four cities.

In a reminder of the divisions over the EU, the forum began with speeches by London Mayor Boris Johnson and the Tory candidate to succeed him, Zac Goldsmith, who both support a vote to leave the EU and delegates were handed goody bags by both the ‘leave’ and ‘remain’ campaigns on their way in. In his speech, Johnson referred to the day after the referendum as “Independence Day.”


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U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron said he's to blame and will learn lessons from this week's furor over his investments in an offshore fund set up by his father, as he sought to draw a line under one of the worst weeks of his premiership."It's not been a...
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Saturday, 09 Apr 2016 01:38 PM
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