Credit: Framsókn/Flickr

Iceland's Prime Minister has stood aside - sort of

Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson has been caught up in the Panama Papers scandal. But he's not going anywhere just yet.

by Jack Torrance
Last Updated: 06 Apr 2016

Iceland’s prime minister stood down yesterday after being linked to the financial scandals published in the so-called ‘Panama Papers’. Except that he didn’t. Instead Signmundur David Gunnlaugsson took a leaf out of the Nigel Farage book of non-resignation resignations.

After news of his departure began to emerge, the prime minister’s office put out a statement clarifying that he would simply be handing over the hot seat to the country’s agriculture and fisheries minister (the obvious go-to guy in a time of crisis), ‘for an unspecificed amount of time. The Prime Minister has not resigned and will continue to serve as Chairman of the Progressive Party.’

The scandal is an unfortunate blow for a nation that is trying to move on from its spectacular meltdown in the early days of the financial crisis – proportionally the largest collapse of any country's banking sector, ever.

Gunnlaugsson rode into office in 2013 on a wave of nationalist rhetoric, after criticising the country’s creditors (which include British and Dutch taxpayers) and the ‘vulture’ hedge funds who picked up the pieces of what was left of its finance industry on the cheap.

He hasn't been linked to tax avoidance or corruption, but the news that he and his wife owned an offshore company, Wintris, that was itself a creditor of Iceland (he sold his 50% stake to his wife for a symbolic $1 after entering parliament) was always going to be a red rag for his political opponents.

Presumably his plan now is to lay low for a bit until the dust settles. Plans for a snap election appear to have been put on ice - bad news for the country’s anti-establishment Pirate Party, which was on a whopping 46% in a recent opinion poll, despite being founded little more than three years ago.

Here in Blighty, David Cameron has faced questions after it emerged his father was a client of Mossack Fonseca, the law firm at the centre of the Panama Papers leaks. 'In terms of my own financial affairs, I own no shares,’ he told reporters yesterday. ‘I have a salary as prime minister, and I have some savings which I get some interest from and I have a house which we used to live in which we now let out while we're living in Downing Street, and that's all I have.’

Unlike his Icelandic counterpart, Cameron is unlikely to resign. But should he choose to stand aside perhaps George Eustice, our very own minister for agriculture, would be ready to step up to the plate.

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime

Could coronavirus lead to gender equality?

Opinion: Enforced home-working and home-schooling could change the lives of working women, and the business...

Mike Ashley: Does it matter if the public hates you right now?

The Sports Direct founder’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has drawn criticism, but in the...

4 films to keep you sane during the coronavirus lockdown

Cirrus CEO Simon Hayward shares some choices to put things in perspective.

Pandemic ends public love affair with Richard Branson et al

Opinion: The larger-than-life corporate mavericks who rose to prominence in the 80s and 90s suddenly...

The Squiggly Career: How to be a chief strengths spotter

When leading remotely, it's more important than ever to make sure your people spend their...

"Blind CVs don't improve your access to talent"

Opinion: If you want to hire socially mobile go-getters, you need to know the context...