So why all the fuss about a few hundred grand stashed overseas to avoid paying tax in Britain? Isn’t that what everyone does? Well, everyone who has that sort of money to stash.
And, frankly, by the standards of his school and class, the sums involved don’t seem that huge. A bit more, perhaps, than your average benefits claimant gets chased for, but well, he is the Prime Minister.
And by comparison with some of the things his government gets up to – all within the law – this particular “scandal” looks pretty trivial and unimportant.
The sticking point is in the thing he hasn’t done any of. That little word “wrong”. It’s been repeated so often these past few days that it begs the question: “What is wrong?”
All those people I mentioned above seem to have got it mixed up with a different word entirely. The word “illegal”.
The two things are not the same at all.
Until 1967, homosexuality was illegal in Britain. So was it wrong before then – and all right now? It’s still against the law in many countries. So is it wrong there?
In some countries it’s illegal for a woman to show her face – or her legs, or her hair – in public. Does that make it wrong?
And then there are plenty of things that are perfectly legal – but still wrong.
For instance, I believe it’s wrong for girls to be married as young as 14. I’m sure most people in Britain would agree. Yet there are many countries in the world where that is legal, and normal – and where the required consent is that of the parents, not the child herself.
And don’t think that just applies to less developed countries. There are several states in the USA where marriageable age is 15 – and in New Hampshire it’s 13 for girls, and 14 for boys.
In that state it’s still illegal (for now) to possess cannabis – but it’s perfectly OK to do so in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon or Washington. So is it OK to puff weed in Denver or Portland, but “wrong” as soon as you cross the state line?
In all those states it’s legal to carry a gun when you go shopping. But does that make it right?
To many – maybe most – US citizens, the answer would seem to be “yes, obviously”. To me – and, I hope, to you – it’s an equally obvious “no”.
In the US from 1920 to 1933 it was illegal to make, sell or transport alcoholic drinks. A lot of people thought it was the law that was wrong, not the liquor. That may apply to many of the countries – such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran – where alcohol is banned today, though most of them have bigger problems to worry about.
There are really two points I’m trying to make here.
The first is that law is not absolute. It varies from place to place, and from time to time.
The second is that while what’s legal is usually fairly clearly defined, right and wrong are much harder to pin down. They vary not just from country to country, but from person to person.
You might be quite happy doing some things I’d find morally repugnant – and vice versa. Whether what we get up to is legal or not – right here, right now – is quite another matter.
So has David Cameron done anything wrong? Legally, almost certainly not.And it would be illegal for me to say he had, unless I had very strong proof.
The moral question of what is right or wrong behaviour for politicians – who, after all, write the laws themselves – is another matter altogether.
Personally, I’m neither very surprised nor very offended by any of the past few days’ revelations about Cameron’s financial affairs. He’s done much worse things with the full approval of Parliament, much of the press and much of the public.
On the other hand, the vast riches accrued by many former politicians for various international “advisory” roles troubles me deeply. Tony Blair is only the most obvious and egregious example of a trend that runs through all major parties.
I’m sure it’s all perfectly legal. And, in my view, utterly wrong.
In my view, in one way at least, politics is a lot like crime. You shouldn’t be allowed to profit from it. Not more, anyway, than the average elector profits from their job.