by Kiri Kankhwende 

David-Cameron-protest-659708Check the date; yes, everyone is still talking about the Panama Papers, which continue to cast a long shadow over the political week. On Saturday, thousands of protesters gathered in London to demand that Cameron resign over his (mis)handling of the issue of tax avoidance, while #ResignCameron trended on Twitter.

The man of the hour was busy telling to Tory Spring Forum that he was to blame for No 10’s fumbling of the revelations about his family finances, no doubt hoping to draw a line under a week in which the denials of his family benefitting from tax avoidance crumbled like a wet biscuit.

His defenders say that Cameron’s family financial arrangements didn’t break the law, which is true. But the reason this issue penetrated beyond the Westminster bubble and onto the streets is because something did break – or at least crumble even further – public trust in politicians.

Many people’s feeling of injustice at the realisation that the rich are opting out our shared civil contract – legally or otherwise – sits uneasily beside issues such as the government dragging its heels to help workers whose livelihoods are threatened by the possible closure of Port Talbot, voting for cuts to the living allowance for the disabled and forcing a disastrous contract on junior doctors that could drive many women from the profession. The government will be worried that the consensus which enables them to push on with austerity is fraying too.

Transparency is the new watch word as Cameron, Corbyn and Osborne publish their tax returns but apparently it has its limits. As Corbyn rightly pointed out when he challenged Cameron in parliament, UK overseas territories registered over half the shell companies revealed in the Panama Papers; the UK “is at the heart of the global tax avoidance industry.” We also doubled down: the Prime Minister went to bat in the EU to stymie attempts to secure greater transparency into the finances of offshore tax trusts.

One of the arguments for Brexit is that “sovereign UK” will be able to strike fairer trade deals with global partners such as the Commonwealth nations. While it’s questionable whether the only thing holding the UK back from fair trade is the EU jackboot on its neck, our role at the heart of global tax avoidance leeches money from developing nations as well as our own society. The EU is a flawed institution but there are also efforts at the EU level working towards greater transparency in and reform of global finance – an argument to stay?

Fear Factor: The Government EU Booklet

EU booklet

The latest cat thrown amongst the EU referendum pigeons comes from the Remain camp, in the form of a booklet putting forward the government’s view. Have you got yours yet?

Boris Johnson has criticised the timing of its delivery to Londoners, warning that it could disrupt the Mayoral elections. (According to the government, the leaflet hasn’t been delivered to voters in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland in order to avoid distracting them from parliamentary and assembly elections).

So far, so patronising on both their parts, though there are legitimate questions to be asked about the government weighing in with all the resources of the State.

As for Londoners, we can multitask. After all, we are learning to juggle the two faces of Zac Goldsmith – his pre-campaign independent-thinking environmental campaigner persona and his current incarnation in the Crosby political mould, peddling racial stereotypes in a bid for the ethnic minority vote.

Goldsmith has denied sending leaflets to minority ethnic voters warning them that Sadiq Khan would put their family heirlooms at risk, calling accusations of racism “absurd”. In addition to figuring out which EU referendum camp they trust, multitasking Londoners will have to decide which Goldsmith to believe.

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White Men Dancing is a weekly column. Kiri Kankhwende and Maurice Mcleod keep an eye on Westminster. Politics is too important to leave to politicians.

Kiri Kankhwende is a Malawian journalist and blogger specialising in immigration and politics. She has a background in French and Chinese language studies and holds an MSc in International Political Communications, Politics and Human Rights Advocacy. An accomplished public speaker, she has also written for the Guardian and the Independent, and has been a contributor to BBC TV and radio, Al-Jazeera and Fox News. Find her on Twitter @madomasi 

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