Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, has called on David Cameron to “come clean” about his family’s tax affairs, as questions continue to swirl about an offshore trust set up by the prime minister’s late father.
No 10 initially shrugged off queries about Blairmore Holdings, which was moved from Panama to Ireland in 2012, saying it was a “personal matter”. But since Monday it has issued a series of statements, the latest of which clarified that “there are no offshore funds/trusts which the PM, Mrs Cameron or their children will benefit from in future”.
Questions remain about whether the prime minister may have benefited in the past, and on Wednesday night the pressure on Downing Street intensified when it emerged that Cameron had intervened to prevent trusts from being subject to sweeping new European Union transparency rules.
“David Cameron might have thought he could fudge his personal position, but this is not going away,” Watson said. “Even if he has benefited from offshore trusts, it would just be better for him to come clean rather than allow this situation to linger on.”
He said the prime minister ought to be prepared to face up to the questions over his family’s tax affairs, after the Conservatives eagerly seized on reports in the run-up to last year’s general election that then Labour leader Ed Miliband’s parents had used a so-called deed of variation to minimise inheritance tax on the family home.
“Ordinarily I think there is no reason to judge people on what their family members do, but in David Cameron’s case he shouldn’t be surprised because that was precisely what he did when he let his backbenchers off the leash to attack Ed Miliband,” Watson said.
He said Labour’s current leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, had been “unequivocal that they believe in tax fairness, and that’s what’s different”.
Watson will deliver a speech in Coventry on Friday urging Labour members and voters to work hard to deliver a vote for Britain to remain in the EU in the 23 June referendum.
There are growing concerns in the remain camp that the fierce battle being fought within the Conservative party over the poll, and the damage to the government’s reputation, including from the Panama Papers revelations, will turn off Labour voters, who may opt to stay at home.
But Watson said he was “putting the party on alert” that as soon as May’s local election campaign is over, grassroots activists and MPs must throw themselves into campaigning to keep Britain in the EU, which he said offered the best protection for the workers’ rights championed by Labour.
The existence of Blairmore Holdings, and the involvement of the prime minister’s father, Ian Cameron, emerged as a result of the leak of millions of documents from the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca. The documents were leaked to Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and a large network of international partners, including the Guardian and the BBC.
This article was written by Heather Stewart, for theguardian.com on Thursday 7th April 2016 15.25 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010