The Carr effect: Cameron attack rebounds while comedian apologises
David Cameron's attack on Jimmy Carr has left him vulnerable to scandals around his close acquaintances and advisers, experts have warned.
As the ramifications of the prime minister's criticism of the comedian for his tax arrangements sank in, many in Westminster speculated that it could become his 'back to basics' moment – a reference to the John Major family values speech which allowed journalists to focus on the personal lives of his Cabinet ministers and MPs.
"Cameron hasn't meant to do this. But his friends and protectors in business and the media are going to detest what he has now set in motion," Labour MP Jamie Reed wrote
"So as Cameron chased this particular ambulance, it broke sharply and he ran face-first into the back of it."
Some critics pointed out that Mr Cameron's own father had run a network of offshore investment funds in tax havens such as Panama City and Geneva which helped pay for his son's £300,000 inheritance.
Nevertheless, Mr Cameron issued a harsh rebuke to mr Carr yesterday, after a Times report found he used a Jersey-based K2 scheme to pay just one per cent tax on his income.
"People work hard, they pay their taxes, they save up to go to one of his shows," Mr Cameron said, while in Mexico for the G20 meeting.
"They buy the tickets. He is taking the money from those tickets and he, as far as I can see, is putting all of that into some very dodgy tax avoiding schemes."
The government has been widely criticised for failing to follow through its rhetoric on tax avoidance with concrete action. Some analysts have speculated that Mr Cameron's comments will cement criticism of the Treasury's handling of the issue.
It is also likely to force the government to take action against any individual thought to be using tax loopholes.
"I'm not in favour of tax avoidance obviously, but I don't think it is for politicians to lecture people about morality," Ed Miliband commented.
"I think what the politicians need to do is – if the wrong thing is happening – change the law to prevent that tax avoidance happening."
Mr Carr apologised on Twitter this morning, saying: "I appreciate as a comedian, people will expect me to 'make light' of this situation, but I'm not going to in this statement as this is obviously a serious matter.
"I met with a financial advisor and he said to me 'do you want to pay less tax? It's totally legal.' I said 'Yes.' I now realise I've made a terrible error of judgement.
"I'm no longer involved in it and will in future conduct my financial affairs much more responsibly. Apologies to everyone."
Take That band members Gary Barlow, Howard Donald and Mark Owen are also accused of avoiding tax. The allegation is particularly damaging because of Mr Barlow's place in this year's Queen's List.