Having reached this state of acceptance, the prime minister was keen to share his confession. Yes, he had indulged in a little tax avoidance, but there was nothing remotely harmful about it. It was just light-hearted, recreational tax avoidance, the sort of thing that a lot of ordinary people with a few million quid in the bank got up to in the privacy of their own homes, and he wasn’t ashamed of it. Far from it. Dave was proud of himself, proud of his dad and proud of their joint clean time.
Clean Dave also sounded as if he might have been just a touch relieved that the charge sheet against him did not stack up quite so badly as he had first feared, but he tried not to let that show. Now that he had come to add up his income and assets, it was blindingly obvious that he was hard done by compared with a lot of people he knew. The £200k his mother had handed over to him out of his father’s estate had really been no more than chicken feed. Hardly worth having. You couldn’t even buy a one-bedroom flat in Croydon for that. Dave wasn’t just clean; he was also broke.
Indulging in a little bit of class C tax avoidance was perfectly healthy. What he wanted to clamp down on were people using dangerous class A tax avoidance, because one thing always tended to lead to another and without governmental, therapeutic intervention, these unfortunates could find themselves in the grip of full-blown tax evasion. So he, Clean Dave, who had already done more than any other prime minister to prevent people sliding into tax evasion hell, was going to do a little bit more to tighten up offshore tax havens.
With his own tax return – the highlights of which were a £100 fine for late filing and the revelation that Clean Dave paid more in tax than the leader of the opposition earned – published just minutes into Clean Dave’s statement, Jeremy Corbyn began his reply by asking whether Cameron understood the public’s anger that there appeared to be one rule for the rich and another for the riff-raff. Allowing people to avoid paying tax might be legal, but was it moral when ordinary people were the ones taking the austerity hit? This was a theme also raised by Conservative Andrew Tyrie, the chairman of the treasury select committee, who was on the way out of the chamber when called by the speaker, John Bercow.
David Cameron flashed his teeth. Whiter than white. “My name’s Dave and I’m a tax avoider,” he said defiantly. Proudly even. He may have been in denial about it during the previous week when it had taken six separate clarifications and the publication of his tax return to get to the truth about his finances, but now he wanted to set the record straight in a statement to the Commons about the Panama Papers. See me, feel me, touch me.