William Hague, the former Tory leader, said that people who want to see politicians being more open about taxes need to bear in mind that not everybody is perfect or normal.
In an interview on the BBC’s Today Programme on Tuesday Morning, Hague said that there needs to be a “maturity” in the public debate about demanding politicians be more transparent.
Prime Minister David Cameron, Chancellor George Osborne and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn all published their tax returns on Monday to show that they had nothing to hide in the wake of the Panama Papers data leak.
Last week the political debate in the UK was dominated by Cameron’s unclear answers to questions about his connection to the offshore fund set up by his father.
Hague started off by conflating politicians being transparent about their tax and politicians being transparent about their medical records. He said that personal circumstances are not necessarily a good guide to how good someone will be as a prime minister. Here’s what Hague said, the added emphasis is ours:
The consequence of greater transparency in tax, in medical records, whatever else it may be among leaders, is that there has to be a maturity in the public debate about those things and a recognition that the circumstances and habits of people who are effective leaders will vary greatly, and that those personal circumstances are not necessarily a good guide to how good they will be as a prime minister, a chancellor or anything else.
Hague illustrated his point by saying that Winston Churchill had tax returns that would have been difficult to defend, yet he was the greatest leader of modern times. He then added that people can’t expect their leaders to be perfect or normal:
We’ve had leaders in the history of our country who have had chaotic personal finances, like William Pitt the Younger, but who were brilliant at handling the nation’s finances. We’ve had leaders who’ve had tax returns, like Churchill, that would have been more difficult to defend in public than Prime Minister David Cameron’s tax returns — but Churchill was the greatest leader of modern times. So we are going to have to bear those things in mind and not expect everybody to be perfect or everybody to be normal.
The Labour are continuing to push Cameron to publish even more of his tax returns. So far Cameron has published records going back to 2010, which is also the year he became prime minister — but Labour are insisting that he should publish returns from before this.