David Cameron and money

By Bernadette Meaden
April 10, 2016

 We shouldn't blame anybody for the actions of their parents, so it isn't fair to blame David Cameron for the financial arrangements of his father. His own financial arrangements, although they involve sums of money beyond the experience of the vast majority of the population, seem to be realtively unremarkable, as this very detailed and fair-minded assessment by tax expert Jolyon Maugham QC finds.

Nor can we assume that a person shares the values or principles of their parents, so if Ian Cameron did anything wrong, that should not reflect badly on the Prime Minister either.

But when a person becomes an adult, forming their own opinions and values, and aspires to elected office, then we are actively invited to assess their character, their values and beliefs. In fact, Mr. Cameron is on record as saying that he believes the character of a politician is actually more important than their policies. He said,

"in the end the real test of being a prime minister, or a president or a cabinet minister, is how you respond to the difficult crises that are put in front of you. That is when character and your reaction come to the fore...That's all about character, and in the end I think that's more important than any one particular policy."

A main plank of Mr. Cameron's policies throughout the six years he has been Prime Minister has been to steadily and relentlessly cut the incomes of the poorest and most disadvantaged sections of the population. Throughout this time he has maintained a lofty aloofness to the realities of what these policies mean to people's lives. He has airily waved away all concern about the steadily rising need for foodbanks, and shown an alarming but presumably genuine ignorance of the policies his own government was pursuing. He famously asserted in the House of Commons on more than one occasion that disabled people were exempt from the bedroom tax, whilst his own government was busy fighting its way through the courts to make disabled people pay the bedroom tax.  

Whilst insisting that such policies and cuts were needed to reduce the deficit, he simultaneously approved a succession of tax cuts for wealthy people just like himself. As Economists for Rational Economic Policies concluded in its 2016 Budget Report, "There is no long-term economic plan; Osborne’s strategy is one of redistribution by taking from those who least can afford it."

At the same time, Mr. Cameron has shown no marked reluctance to make a claim on the public purse. Despite his own considerable wealth, and the fact that his wife comes from a family that is perhaps even wealthier, it has been revealed in the last few days that Samantha Cameron has been provided with the services of a personal fashion adviser, on a salary of £53,000 per year, at taxpayers expense. Surely this could have been funded by the Camerons themselves?

In this context, it is worth reminding ourselves of the sums people receive to live on, who rely on the welfare benefits that have been frozen and cut by Mr. Cameron's government.

Carers Allowance, for someone who may have had to give up a job to look after a loved one, and which is only payable if they spend at least 35 hours per week on caring duties - £62.10 per week. Jobseekers Allowance is £73.10 per week for people over 25, and just £57.90 for those under 25.  Employment and Support Allowance, for people who have been assessed by the government as being too ill or disabled to work, is currently up to £102.15 a week for people in the work-related activity group, but for new claimants in future will be cut to £73.10.

So whilst we cannot hold David Cameron responsible for the family he was born into or the actions of his late father, we can deplore the fact that someone so fortunate has chosen to pursue policies which, amongst many other things, have caused sick and disabled people to choose between heating and eating, have caused children to go to school hungry, and have caused a steep rise in homelessness.

It is said by people who know David Cameron that he always feared that his wealthy background could damage his political ambitions. But he was a man very much in control of his own destiny. He could have chosen to really listen to, and learn from, people who were not born with his advantages, and to form his ideas and policies accordingly. Instead he appears to have remained enclosed within his own little world of wealth, privilege and entitlement, to have acted in the interests of people like himself, and given very little thought or care to the consequences of his policies for people immeasurably less fortunate than himself. Leaving aside his wealth and his tax returns, that is where the Prime Minister, who ought to be governing for the whole country, has gone sadly wrong.   


© Bernadette Meaden has written about political, religious and social issues for some years, and is strongly influenced by Christian Socialism, liberation theology and the Catholic Worker movement. She is an Ekklesia associate and regular contributor. You can follow her on Twitter: @BernaMeaden



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