Greensill filed for insolvency during Covid in March 2020 after being valued at $7bn, a firm founded by an adviser to David Cameron’s government, leading to 440 job losses, and 3,000 more with Greensill-financed Liberty Steel, Britain’s third-largest steel producer.
The former Prime Minister told friends he stood to make $60 million from the listing, although David Cameron denies these allegations. This has forced Boris Johnson to launch formal inquiries given the ongoing journalist crusade on Westminster cronyism.
Lex Greensill worked with Jeremy Heywood, cabinet secretary 2011 as part of a Civil Service efficiency drive to improve supply chain SMEs access to low-cost credit.
David Cameron began working as Ambassador to win new business for Greensill in August 2018, soon as the 2 years lobbying ban ended after leaving government. Another individual, senior civil servant Bill Crothers worked for Greensill in 2015 while on civil service payroll.
Mr Cameron admitted to texting and ringing the Chancellor and going for a drink with the health secretary, Matt Hancock in 2019, as part of his work. It only took 3 weeks of headlines and journalistic pursuit for the former PM to step forward and admit poor judgement.
What the ex-PM did was within the rules, but something feels off regardless, especially considering the possible compensation involved.
Greensill collapsed after struggling since 2018, putting large dents in Credit Suisse, General Atlantic and Softbank Vision Fund (part-owned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund) as the largest investor in Greensill.
Cameron tried his best to help Greensill access the Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF), making representations to the Treasury when Covid struck.
While this may seem noble of Cameron as Greensill’s Earned pay product was designed for employees to get paid shift by shift, rather than resort to exploitative payday loans at the end of the month, it makes us question whether a former Minister, let alone PM, have the ability to access current government decision-makers and influence policy.
Various accusations have been levelled at Mr Cameron for not going through formal channels, but text message and email. This reeks of a too cosy-a-relationship between business and Westminster, as even Gordon Brown chipped into the foray declaring former PM’s “must never” lobby government for commercial purposes because it “brings public service into disrepute.”
Without transparency, there is a risk of misinterpretation. Who knows who else David Cameron was liaising with or what else is discussed over “private drinks” with current Cabinet members capable of leaning on lower rungs of civil service. Even Senior Conservative MP Sir Bernard Jenkin, Parliament’s Liaison Committee Chair, said such incidences revealed a “very casual” yet “corrosive” culture in top government and business relationship.
Gordon Brown wants the lobbying ban to stretch 5 years, however, it seems unfair to make laws stretch far into the future to bind people to previous employment, especially considering most politicians are not especially well paid for their capabilities.
If this were an isolated incident revealed to investigative journalists by Whitehall whistleblowers that might be one thing, but we also have current Health Secretary Matt Hancock declaring 15% ownership of Topwood Ltd March 2021, a supplier approved for NHS trusts England in 2019, a year after he took the role. He failed to mention his sister Emily Gilruth is a Topwood Director, involved since 2002.
Although Hancock has no involvement in the awarding of these contracts which were for Wales NHS, not England, meaning no conflict of interest arises, and he declared interest accordingly; it seems only fitting that Boris does take the June feedback from the inquiries appropriately as transparency and accountability are crucial for public confidence in our democratically elected officials.