The announcement of an official government enquiry into David Cameron’s lobbying of multiple government ministers and senior civil servants is like putting a tiny sticking plaster on a gaping open wound full of pus! It was a feeble attempt by Johnson to kick this issue into the long grass. It’s one of seven enquiries that have now been announced into perhaps the greatest lobbying scandal of our day. The level of corruption that has infected the Tory Party is so endemic that no single enquiry will get to the truth. We need a full public enquiry with full legal powers to compel witnesses to testify and give evidence and root out the corruption that is fast eroding confidence in our democracy.
As previously reported by North East Bylines on 3 April we know that” absolute power corrupts absolutely” but I don’t even think that Lord Acton who penned these famous words could have anticipated the extreme corrupt nature of what we are seeing now. There have been fresh allegations surfacing over recent weeks which is rapidly turning into a tsunami wave of lurid and deeply concerning headlines that now dominate the daily news agenda.
Cameron and Johnson were long term rivals reports the Tory loving Daily Mail. On the 13 April it ran a feature reporting that the setting up of the government enquiry was an attempt to settle old scores with a headline which read “Cheap jibes and naked rivalry that has simmered for decades, a row that has been brewing since their Eton days.“ A more Machiavellian suggestion from a source quoted by the Mail said the enquiry was set up to divert attention from the £60,000 lavished on the Downing Street redecoration project. This same £60,000 was allegedly given by a Tory Donor but has failed to be declared and was being compared to the £60 million odd that Cameron stood to make from his Greensill options.
The texting and direct lobbying of 4 ministers including the health Secretary, the Chancellor and two other Treasury Ministers on behalf of his client will not come as much of a shock but Cameron also lobbied senior officials at the Bank of England and officials based at Number 10. Well, a pay day that could have resulted in his share options being worth in the region $60 million seems a likely motivation.
The most recent and perhaps the most troubling is the news reported by the Times newspaper on the 14th April that Bill Crothers, one of Britain’s most senior civil servants, was given permission to work part-time as a director at Greensill Capital while he was still in Whitehall. Crothers spent three years as chief commercial officer, overseeing about £40 billion of taxpayers’ money, for which he was paid £149,000 a year. This is a hugely significant in terms of conflict of interest. Greensill was actively seeking government contracts at the time. He subsequently went on to work full time for Greensill . This scandal shows up the inadequacy of the ethics regime for ministers and senior civil servants after they leave office.
It has recently been revealed that a drinks date between Matt Hancock and Lex Greenshill was arranged by David Cameron in 2019. This was to discuss a new payment scheme for the NHS, one that went on to be used by some NHS trusts. This, and the texting between Cameron and Rishi Sunak in which Cameron was old that the Chancellor would “push the team for him” stinks of cronyism. Greensill wanted NHS contracts and access to treasury backed funding for his company and Cameron was the man to open doors for him and clinch the deals.
Mr Cameron has now broken his silence after weeks of intense pressure to comment and he has admitted to poor choices in the way he carried out his lobbying. His statement contains no apology and he says he did not break any rules. This point on breaking the rules is significant as he didn’t break any of them. These rules are so weak and so ineffective a coach and horses could be driven through them, or in Cameron’s case a massive freight train.
The Tories have now been in power for over ten years and sleaze and corruption has dogged them over this period from for the days of the MP’S expense scandals. We will always remember the claim submitted by a Tory MP for clearing his moat with multiple others also required to pay back incorrect expense claims .
It’s extraordinary that in 2021 a former Prime minister can bring such disgrace to himself, his party, our parliamentary democracy and the nation’s reputation around the world. But it is perhaps a foretaste of what’s around the corner from the current Prime Minister who seems to revel in controversy. He ordered his MPs to reject a call for a full parliamentary enquiry and yet within hours three parliamentary committees are investigating the lobbying by Cameron.
And is there more to this story of Johnson’s alleged intervening in the Newcastle United takeover bid after lobbying than meets the eye? Number 10 has furiously denied the story but with so much scandal accompanying Mr Johnson and his party, he may not be able to kick this story into touch so easily.
More to follow…