NEWS DIGEST 18.04.2021: The Cameron/Greensill scandal heats up

Today’s news is brought to you via Google News. The funding scandal involving former British prime minister David Cameron and the collapsed financial services firm Greensill Capital appears to be snowballing, with the current administration forced into urgent damage control. The UK environment secretary (minister) George Eustice told Sky News that Cameron had not done anything wrong in texting ministers to promote Greensill in its drive to financially back the government’s coronavirus financial stimulus scheme, but said he should have written formal letters instead. The secretary also said that current rules on political lobbying were ‘good’. Members of the opposition party Labour, however condemned both Cameron and the ruling party’s response to the scandal, saying that ‘Tory sleaze’ was returning and the revelations in light of the scandal hitting the headlines were ‘really quite shocking’, according to Labour’s shadow communities secretary, Steve Reed – Greensill scandal: Current lobbying rules are ‘pretty good’ and Cameron didn’t do anything wrong, says minister (Sky News Politics)

Photo by Chris Schippers on Pexels.com

David Cameron worked for Greensill as an advisor after he was dumped from power following the Brexit referendum in 2016, which he called. As an Greensill agent, he lobbied ministers to ‘prise open’ the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), which provides public subsidised healthcare for the whole of the UK. The former PM, as a lobbyist for the UK-Australian firm, was close to its chief executive, Lex Greensill, appealed to ministers to privatise an app-based service used by NHS doctors. Greensill had rolled out a paid-for app named Earnd for medical staff, and Cameron was richly rewarded with share options worth millions of pounds – David Cameron rode the wave of Covid to target the NHS (The Sunday Times)

The current prime minister, Boris Johnson, was advised by The Independent newspaper to tighten up lobbying rules in light of the Cameron-Greensill controversy, and most importantly, to find an applicant for the role of independent advisor to the government on ministerial interests, which has lain vacant for the past six months after the previous occupant quit in disgust following another government scandal around the alleged bullying of civil servants – It is in Boris Johnson’s interest to tighten the rules on lobbying (Independent Premium)

The Guardian newspaper, another leading broadsheet, has lambasted the government response to the scandal, stating that the fiasco was ‘just the tip of the fatberg’. The newspaper article on the scandal, written by regular commentator Andrew Rawnsley, said that the ethics of the current government needed a ‘deep clean’ and that regulations against corruption in the Parliament and civil service ironically ushered in under Cameron’s reign, were as useful as a ‘chocolate fireguard’. Tellingly, Rawnsley said that the Greensill problem was of an order several times more serious that the numerous controversies and episodes of moral sleaze that dogged the Conservative parties during their glory days in the 1990s – David Cameron and the Greensill scandal is just the tip of the fatberg (The Guardian Opinion)

In another Sunday opinion piece, published by The Guardian‘s child newspaper The Observer, the paper’s editorial team stated that nothing much would come of the lessons learned from the scandal, and politicians would continue line their pockets until ministerial codes meant to prevent this sort of thing are more rigidly enforced. Former PM David Cameron, as a lobbyist working for Greensill Capital, was said to have contacted both Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and health secretary Matt Hancock and therefore could have potentially influenced government policy during the pandemic. It has also emerged that two senior civil servants held paid roles for Greensill, something that has only been made easier by the current government’s strong desire to increase the role of the private sector in publicly-funded ministerial initiatives – The Observer view on the lobbying scandal engulfing the government (The Guardian Opinion)

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