It is raining tax returns in the wake of the Panama Papers leaks, and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn wants political journalists to reveal their sources of income – a demand that invited some ridicule and mockery.
After Prime Minister David Cameron published his six-year tax returns to ward off criticism for benefiting from his late father’s investment fund in Panama, the rush for transparency has seen more returns from Corbyn, chancellor George Osborne and Scotland first minister Nicola Sturgeon.
Now there is a demand that all ministers, MPs, civil servants and political journalists publish their tax returns. Top leaders revealing their returns is unprecedented in British politics, but asking others to follow is seen as extreme.
“Jeremy Corbyn’s plan to make journalists publish their tax returns is North Korea-style madness”, said the headline of a column in The Daily Telegraph on Tuesday.
When Corbyn was asked if all those who stand for election, political journalists and newspaper editors should reveal their financial details, he replied: “Money and politics have to be treated with the greatest sense of openness possible.”
He told presenter Andrew Marr: “I mean you are involved in public life as a very important commentator on the BBC, as many others are. I think we need to know what influences are at work.
“I think we are moving in that direction, I think it’s probably a good thing if we move generally in that direction so everybody knows what influences are at play.”
But Cameron had other views about journalists being asked for tax returns. He wants returns to be declared only by the prime minister, chancellor, leader of opposition, shadow chancellor and the first minister of Scotland.
He told the House of Commons on Monday: “We should think carefully before abandoning completely all taxpayer confidentiality in this House, as some have suggested.
“If this were to come in for MPs, people would also ask for a similar approach for those who ask us questions, those who run large public services or lead local government, or indeed those who edit news programmes or newspapers.
“I think this would be a very big step for our country. It certainly should not take place without a long and thoughtful debate, and it is not the approach that I would recommend.”