Tax scandal weakens Cameron ahead of EU referendum

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By Florence Biedermann ,AFP

LONDON — The scandal over his tax dealings and a steel sector crisis have badly bruised Prime Minister David Cameron just three months ahead of a crucial referendum on Britain’s EU membership, experts said. Cameron and his Downing Street office issued four comments regarding the Panama Papers before the British leader on Thursday finally admitted he had held shares in his late father’s Bahamas-based offshore investment fund. Cameron’s popularity has slipped in recent weeks, with only 34 percent of respondents saying they thought he was doing well and 58 percent that he was doing badly, according to a YouGov poll released on Friday. His previous popularity rating in a similar poll in February was 39 percent and 53 percent. Labour opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn instead has seen his popularity rise from 25 to 30 percent, while those who think he is doing badly fell from 59 to 52 percent. Labour has accused Cameron of “hypocrisy,” pointing to his crusading stance on tax evasion and avoidance and his promise of enacting change at an anti-corruption conference in London next month. “The prime minister has lost the trust of the British people,” Corbyn said. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon joined the criticism, saying the scandal “leaves his credibility in tatters and completely betrays public trust.” Ian Bond from the Centre for European Reform think tank said: “His ability to lecture the others at the anti-corruption summit is going to be damaged.” But he added: “Most of these political scandals pass quickly.” “It’s not great news for him but we are weeks away from the referendum so he still has the chance to get back,” he said.

‘Sixth sense’ gone?

Ramon Pacheco Pardo, a lecturer at King’s College London, said: “When his government for example is asking companies to pay their fair share of tax, when he’s asking individuals to pay their taxes in full, obviously his political capital is really diminished.” There has been criticism from within Cameron’s own camp too. “His politician’s sixth sense seems to have deserted him,” Paul Goodman, a former Conservative MP, wrote on the Conservative Home political blog. “The prime minister doesn’t always manage to keep his temper … and his original instinct may have been, when confronted with claims about a father that he loved, to tell the media to take a running jump.