Former Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron has been well and truly hoisted by his own petard.
Earlier this month, the FT revealed that Cameron, who took a job as a senior advisor to Greensill after resigning from No. 10 Downing Street in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum, unduly pressured some of his former Conservative Party colleagues like Chancellor Rishi Sunak to help hook the company up with government loan programs intended for struggling SMEs. While the company didn't receive any money, news of the repeated Cameron-influenced appeals that it received infuriated readers.
Now, the Times of London is reporting that Cameron is facing an official investigation into whether he violated lobbying "sleaze laws" that he himself brought in during his stint as PM over the lobbying effort mentioned above.
David Cameron is being formally investigated over a possible breach of lobbying sleaze laws that he brought in when he was prime minister.
Treasury figures allege that he directly lobbied the chancellor to secure multimillion-pound Covid loans for Greensill, a finance firm he was advising. Cameron also approached the Bank of England in an attempt to secure Greensill’s participation in the loans programme.
Such interventions may fall foul of legislation that forbids third parties to directly lobby ministers or senior officials without declaring themselves on the government’s official register of lobbyists. Failure to register can lead to a £7,500 civil penalty or, in severe cases, criminal prosecution.
A spokesman for Harry Rich, the registrar who polices the lobbying rules, confirmed that Rich and the office were launching an official investigation.
“The registrar is investigating whether David Cameron has engaged in unregistered consultant lobbying,” he said. Cameron is expected to say he was an employee of Greensill and his actions were outside the scope of the law.
During yesterday's appearance before the Commons Liaison Committee, PM Boris Johnson faced questions from opposition lawmakers about whether Cameron's lobbying effort stretched all the way to No. 10. So far, there's no evidence that it did, though Cameron reportedly lobbied people close to the PM. But if that should change, BoJo could quickly become ensnared in the burgeoning scandal.
For those who haven't been closely following the Greensill saga, Bill Blain penned a helpful overview the other day that took the trade-finance firm's "enablers" (including Cameron) to task. Greensill collapsed earlier this month after its main insurer cancelled coverage on some assets packaged by Greensill, which prompted Credit Suisse to gate trade-finance funds with $10 billion in assets, saying they had become "impossible to value" (ie potentially worthless) without the insurance coverage.
While the PM certainly appears to have insulated himself from the scandal, the involvement of people in his orbit could create problems for BoJo going forward. His Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has already been dragged into the mess thanks to Cameron's lobbying. It makes us wonder: which senior HMG official will be next?