Naked Politics Blogger
As the dust settles on the debris after the explosion of the Panama papers we are left with a renewed focus on how deep the pockets of our politicians are. But how much does it really matter if our elected representatives are laughing all the way to the bank?
So it turns out that our master David Cameron profited from his father’s strangely named company Blairmore, which stuffed some cash in a tax haven fund, and he got £200k from mumsy, plus his wife isn’t short of a bob or two either. Does this actually lessen his ability to be a decent leader?
How much dough you have tucked away has also been a factor in the London Mayoral race, with Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith being born with a full set of silver crockery in his mouth. When his father passed away he is thought to have inherited between £200 and £300 million and has been accused of being too wealthy to grasp the needs of your average Londoner. However, he must be doing something right having been re-elected as MP for the Richmond constituency with a hugely increased majority last year.
Current leader of the metropolis, BoJo is also on a par with Scrooge McDuck, recently publishing his tax return showing he whacked almost £1m over to HMRC in the last four years. He was of course trying to appear transparent in light of the Mossack Fonseca outbreak but there are suspicions that he may have just been showing off. Regardless, history will likely remember him as immensely popular both as a Mayor and a personality.
So, as we can see moneyed politicians are hardly a rare breed and though the above do happen to be from the Conservative Party, which is arguably more toff laden, most Labour MPs aren’t exactly scrounging down the back of the sofa either. Indeed, under Ed Milliband there were seven millionaires in the shadow cabinet.
Most people seem to feel that the personal riches of politicians cheapens the message that we are ‘all in this together’ and though I understand the reaction, I challenge the assertion that being wealthy means you are unable to relate to those who are not. I’ll quantify for readers here that I have no personal nest egg of my own (making only a paltry £4 on my ISA interest last year) so though I may be sympathising with the well-heeled, I am not one of them.
There seems to be some sort of prevailing rhetoric that if you have money you reside in cloud cuckoo land without the ability to empathise with those buying the supermarkets basics range, I think this is unhelpful. We do not need people to be the same as us to understand us. We do not expect our representatives to share our gender, skin colour or religion, so why must they share our socio economic status? Is it truly the case that being wealthy defines you more than other characteristics?
The UK remains a country inexplicably obsessed with class, almost to the point where it seems a miracle that we never actually went the whole hog and implemented a formal caste system. As such, I fear we are in danger of needless posh bashing when really the qualities that actually matter in a Member of Parliament are a willingness to listen, a desire to better the country and a certain level of intellect. These factors are far more significant than what someone has stuffed in their piggy bank.
I do appreciate that when you stop looking at parliamentarians as individuals and view parliament as a collective, having any particular sort of group (the rich, women, Sikhs…) dominate the benches might be unhelpful. It is from this line of thinking that calls for a microcosm assembly evolve, i.e. a legislative body which accurately reflects the makeup of our society. However, I think this is neither practical nor desirable. I believe this is a reductionist notion that in essence implies that one woman can speak for all women, one Muslim for all Muslims etc.
We do of course need to keep a close eye on the background and interests of our democratically elected representatives, but I think we need to be careful not to write people off simply because they’re minted, there are far worse things to be.