The smell of something gone rotten

Eleven years ago, leader of the opposition and future prime minister, David Cameron described lobbying as “the next big scandal waiting to happen” and said the Conservatives needed to be “the party that sorts all this out”.

Four years later, the Tory/LibDem coalition government, led by Cameron, brought in The Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014, which introduced a register for consultant lobbyists, supposedly to prevent sleazy behind the scenes dealings.

Fat chance!

Hypocrisy is ubiquitous in politics, but a former leader of the country and supposed stickler for the adherence of lobbying rules being exposed for using his privileged access route to government in an attempt to change policy in favour of his employer is the height of double standards, even if, as he insists, he has not broken any rules on lobbying (and he should know)..

Cameron’s boss since he walked away from frontline politics in 2018, former investment banker Lex Greensill, has been in Cameron’s orbit since 2011, when he was brought in as a Government advisor by former banking colleague and senior civil servant Jeremy Heywood.

From there the line is like a snail’s trail of jobs for the boys and contractual benefits to Greensill cohorts of which Cameron’s access to present cabinet ministers, from “private drinks” with Health Secretary Matt Hancock to email exchanges with Chancellor Rishi Sunak is just the latest blob of slimy gob shining on the pavement outside Downing Street.

Lobbying in itself is not the problem as when used correctly it should be a way of keeping ministers more widely informed. But the system is so prone to exploitation and misuse it makes FIFA’s selection process for host nations in the World Cup look more honest.

Boris, whose relationship with David Cameron has been one of intense rivalry since their days at Eton, has instructed a top lawyer to look into the decisions taken around the development and use of supply chain finance and associated schemes in government, especially the role of Lex Greensill and Greensill Capital over the past ten years.

It is one of seven separate inquiries being undertaken into lobbying.

At the very least restrictions have to be brought in to restrict former cabinet ministers and prime ministers not content with just writing a book from using their positions of power and privilege to be used for the benefit of a future employer.

But investment banking and government are so entrenched, and not just in the UK, that it’s difficult to see how the link between self interest and that of big business can be eradicated from the party politically led system.

Until then ethics are out of the window and photographs of past premiers with a new agenda sharing a nice cuppa with the likes of Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, widely acknowledged as the man at the top of the chain behind the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey, will be commonplace.

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Anyone not touched by the image of HM The Queen sat alone in the chapel at Windsor on Saturday during her husband’s funeral has no heart, although I dare say 109,741 people will think the BBC should have broadcast a repeat of the Masterchef final instead.

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Stupid TV quiz answers of the week:

Q: Roger the Cook appears in which classic series of stories?

A: Horrible Histories?

But an extra mention goes to the guy on The Chase who thought Orville Wright was “Something to do with the duck.”

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Edward Case

Columnist