When I was about 8, my younger brother and I were playing football in our lounge at the family home. In our youthful enthusiasm, and general disregard for the fact a room full of electronics and furniture is not appropriate for a game of footy, the ball hit one of my mum's ornaments, a figurine of a little girl, and sent it crashing to the floor.
Panicking, I stashed the broken piece inside a vase and placed what was left back on the mantelpiece. We admitted to the crime of playing football in the lounge, but kept quiet about the harm done to the figurine. The next day, my mum noticed the damage and confronted us about it, forcing us to admit our crime. The punishment was significantly worse because we'd lied about it.
It was that day that I learnt a lesson every PR professional should know: In a crisis, it's always better to admit all your wrongs in the beginning, because you'll get found out eventually.
If my 8 year old self had been in Downing Street several days ago when questions began to arise about the PM's tax affairs after the publication of the 'Panama Papers', I'd have told them exactly that: Just admit it all, because they're going to find it out anyway.
I blogged yesterday about why I felt sorry for the PM's current predicament, because of the constant need to clarify. My pity came because I know what it is like to have to consistently shift a nuanced position when journalists constantly ask for follow up.
However, it transpires that isn't the reason he was shifting quite so much. In an interview with Robert Peston this evening, the PM admitted that he did previously benefit from his father's offshore arrangement, thanks to his ownership of some shares that he sold in January 2010 for around £30,000. This admission doesn't directly contradict anything he has said in the last few days, but at best it makes him look shifty and calls into question Number 10's management of the crisis.
It is human nature to try and bury the bits of a bad story which have so far gone undiscovered. In the same way I thought my mum would never notice the damage to the figurine, Downing Street were probably hoping that by issuing statement after statement, the questions would stop before anyone thought to ask whether he'd ever benefitted from owning any shares before.
But they didn't stop and now, four days after the story started, all they've done is give it fresh legs. They've been dragged kicking and screaming to admit something that they obviously knew to be the case from the beginning. And to compound that, the decision to not divulge the information just calls into question the Prime Minister's integrity.
And for the sake of what? The fact he owned shares in his father's company but sold them before he became Prime Minister is itself hardly earth shattering, or particularly damaging. If the PM had admitted it on day one, I doubt we'd even be talking about it today.
Alot of very talented people work in Downing Street. But tonight, they were outsmarted by an 8 year old.