David Cameron and Greensill: How dodgy is Dave?
David Cameron, like herpes, is back
“What’s he done now” you ask?
Well, it all centres around a financial services firm he started working for as an advisor in 2018 called Greensill Capital.
The company specialises in supply chain finance, which is a sort of cash advance service to help companies deal with cash flow problems. Its founder, Lex Greensill, is an Australian billionaire financier who was awarded a CBE for “services to the economy” in 2017.
Greensill also happens to have been a “senior advisor” to David Cameron during Dave’s time as prime minister.
Now we’ve set the scene, let’s go back to the lobbying scandal.
Back at the start of the pandemic, Dave tried to persuade the government to issue loans, using tax-payer money, to Greensill Capital as part of the Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF).
It's important to note that when Dave joined Greensill, it was agreed that his payment would be partly in the form of shares. Newspaper reports claim that these would have been worth tens of millions of pounds, but Dave denies this.
In a nutshell, lobbying is when individuals or private interest groups try to influence government policy.
In theory, there's nothing objectively wrong with lobbying the government on issues - but often it's the methods lobbyist use to go about it.
And, unlike the average shady lobbyist, Dave is a former prime minister - which means he has access to some of the most powerful people in the country, making it incredibly easy for him to slide into the DMs of senior members of government.
And slide into the DMs he did.
The Financial Times discovered last month that he sent multiple text messages to the personal phone of the chancellor Rishi Sunak.
He also contacted the Treasury's financial secretary Jesse Norman, and economic secretary John Glen.
And The Sunday Times unearthed an email in which he claimed "it seems nuts" to exclude Greensill from the CCFF.
You’d think Dave would take the moral conundrums of lobbying seriously - after all, it was he who said in 2010: “It’s an issue that exposes the far too cosy relationship between politics, government, business, and money. I’m talking about lobbying."
— george coote (@VeryBigNews) April 12, 2021
“The ex-ministers and ex-advisors for hire helping big businesses find the right way to get its way.”
These sound like the words of a man who would take his position as a former prime minister into account when it comes to lobbying, right?
Unfortunately, he seems to have forgotten about it - like that time he suffered a "brain fade" over which football team he supports.
Maybe he just got confused. West Ham or Aston Villa. Same colours, different teams, Dave.
While Cameron's request was ultimately unsuccessful, and he was left waiting for over 20 days for a response from Sunak (ouch), Greensill was still given access to tens of millions of pounds to issue loans under a separate pandemic support scheme known as the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme.
Furthermore, Greensill had 10 meetings with the Treasury in spring last year, with minutes from the meetings stating they were happening at “the chancellor’s request.”
And the Treasury isn't the only department the former PM managed to worm his way into, with records showing he went for a “private drink” with Lex Greensill and health secretary Matt Hancock in November 2019.
Following the meeting, Greensill secured the contract to rollout a payment scheme across the NHS which would pay staff in a more flexible way. The department of health is insisting everything was done in a legitimate way, but there appear to be no minutes of the meeting.
This, of course, has emerged after a high court judge ruled that Matt Hancock acted "unlawfully" over his failing to publish Covid-19 contracts.
Greensill has since collapsed, and in doing so has had a knock on effect on Liberty Steel - a key steel company in the UK that it did business with - leaving 5,000 jobs at risk.
After weeks of radio silence Dave came out and addressed the situation in a long statement on Sunday night.
In it, he said: "There are important lessons to be learnt. As a former prime minister, I accept that communications with government need to be done through only the most formal of channels, so there can be no room for misinterpretation.”
And, unlike his 2016 resignation, it looks unlikely he will be able to stroll off humming from this one.
Although, Dave was cleared of breaking the rules by the lobbying watchdog in March, the government has now announced a formal investigation into the matter.
In an explosive Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday, Boris Johnson with a straight face said: "This is a government and a party that has been consistently tough on lobbying."
It sounds to me like Dave’s made an utter pigs ear out of it.
And Labour seem to think so.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer lambasted the government at the dispatch box, describing the revelations so far as "the tip of the iceberg."
He urged politicians from all parties to come together and "start to clean up the sleaze and cronyism that is at the heart of this Conservative government".
"It’s now so ingrained in this Conservative government, we don’t need another Conservative Party employee marking their own homework."
After all, the scandal involves an ex-Tory prime minister, with a current Tory government.
And, to top it off, the supposedly "independent” investigation is being led by no other than Nigel Boardman - a non-executive director of the government’s Department of Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy.
He also worked at Slaughter and May, a law firm that just happen to have had a few lawyers working as part of "an integrated team with Treasury legal advisers” at the Treasury... which set up the CCFF... which is the scheme Dave wanted tax payers cash for...
Feeling confused? Join the club.
Chaos with Ed Miliband doesn’t sound too bad right now, does it?