By Aditya Chakrabortty and cross-posted from The Guardian
Over the past 72 hours, you have seen our political establishment operating at a level of panic rarely equalled in postwar history. Britain’s prime minister has had yanked out of him some of his most intimate financial details. Complete strangers now know how much he’s inherited so far from his mum and dad, and the offshore investments from which he’s profited. Yesterday he even took the unprecedented step of revealing the taxes he’d paid over the past six years. Leaders of other parties have responded by summarily publishing their own HMRC returns. In contemporary Britain, where one’s extramarital affairs are more readily discussed in public than one’s tax affairs, this is jaw-dropping stuff.
But the risk is that all this will descend into a morass of semi-titillating detail: a string of revelations about who gave what to whom, and whether he or she then declared it to the Revenue. The story will become about “handling” and “narrative” and individual culpability. That will be entertaining for those who like to point fingers, perplexing for those too busy to engage in the detail – and miss the wider truth revealed by the leak which forced all this into public discussion.
Because at root, the Panama Papers are not about tax. They’re not even about money. What the Panama Papers really depict is the corruption of our democracy…