David Cameron has broken his month silence over his lobbying for “scandal-hit” finance company Greensill Capital, admitting he should have acted through “the most formal channels”.
Cameron said “there are important lessons to be learnt” after the latest twist in his relationship with the “disgraced financier Lex Greensill” has seen “Matt Hancock dragged” into the lobbying scandal.
“If true, surely the greatest ethical scandal in British political history,” is the damning verdict tweeted by author and former BBC reporter Robert Harris.
The “heavyweight of historical fiction with a knack for creating page-turning political thrillers with literary credence”, calls the Sunday Times’ story about Cameron “devastating” because it is “alleging he sought to make money out of the wages of NHS staff coping with the pandemic, and the government tried hard to accommodate him.”
Lex Greensill is an Australian who worked for Cameron’s government as an unpaid adviser from 2011, although Cameron claims a “false impression has been created that Lex Greensill was a close member of my team” when the “truth is, I had very little to with” him and “as I recall, I met him twice at most in the entirety of my time as prime minister.”
Thousands of jobs at risk after Greensill collapse
Cameron quit Number 10 following the Brexit referendum defeat in 2016 and two years later he was being paid by Greensill, who in the meantime, had been awarded a CBE in 2017 for services to the economy, presented by Prince Charles.
Reports by the Times and the Financial Times over recent weeks have detailed Cameron contacting the chancellor Rishi Sunak and other ministers and senior figures to lobby on behalf of Greensill.
The finance company spectacularly collapsed in March with the loss of 440 jobs – and thousands more at threat in the steel industry, and 55,000 at risk globally. Greensill had described itself as one of the UK’s leading fintech firms that was valued at £3.5 billion in October 2019, and “seeking a valuation of $7 billion at its next fundraising exercise.”
Today’s disclosure that Cameron contacted Hancock to arrange “drinks” between the health secretary and Greensill to discuss the financier’s app that would enable NHS staff to access their wages before pay-day has forced the former PM to finally respond to the story.
‘I complied with the rules,’ says Cameron
In a statement released on Sunday (April 11), Cameron said: “In my representations to government, I was breaking no codes of conduct and no government rules.
“Ultimately, the outcome of the discussions I encouraged about how Greensill’s proposals might be included in the government’s CCFF (Covid Corporate Financing Facility) initiative – and help in the wake of the coronavirus crisis – was that they were not taken up.”
Cameron claims to have “complied with the rules” and that “my interventions did not lead to a change in the government’s approach to the CCFF”, adding, that “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.”
The former PM said he worked for Greensill Capital believing there “would be a material benefit for UK businesses at a challenging time” adding: “That was, in large part, my reason for working for Greensill in the first place,”
Cameron was set for $60m windfall
The Observer reported today (Sunday) that Cameron stood to “profit from a $30m (£21.8m) employee benefit trust registered in Jersey thanks to his role with the collapsed Greensill Capital.” Other reports suggest “Cameron told friends he was set for a $60m windfall if Greensill floated on the stock exchange.”
Cameron’s lobbying for Greensill Capital was investigated by the Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists, who, ITV report, “concluded Mr Cameron was an employee of Greensill so was not required to declare himself on the register of consultant lobbyists”.
“One misunderstanding around Cameron-Greensill is the idea that the lobbying registrar “cleared” him”, writes chief political correspondent for the Financial Times, Jim Pickard. He continues: “nope [it didn’t clear Cameron] it merely concluded that his activities were beyond its scope (because it doesn’t cover in-house lobbyists.”
The BBC’s policy editor, Lewis Goodall tweeted “another myth” is the argument that Cameron is a “private citizen” and therefore “divorced from the public realm”.
“Except,” states Goodall, former PM Cameron “claims substatial [sic] sums of public money to run his office (via the Public Duty Costs Allowance)” – more than £110,000 per annum.
“As such, though the argument for him to make full account of himself is already very strong, it is stronger still given he continues to draw on the public purse.”
The Guardian reports that the Financial Times first contacted Cameron’s office about his lobbying for Greensill in early March.
Labour’s Rachel Reeve, the shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said: “The events unfolding over the last few weeks stretch across government and affect thousands of people.
“Transparency and accountability are crucial and that requires the utmost openness from government to establish the full facts behind this scandal.”