WITH Mystic Meg-like foresight, David Cameron once predicted that political lobbying would be “the next big scandal waiting to happen”.
It was 2009 and the then Tory leader hit out at the “far-too-cosy relationship between politics, government, business and money”, which he said had “tainted our politics for too long”.
Now, the skies above Cameron’s shepherd’s hut in the Cotswolds are dark and the chickens are coming home to roost.
Instead of chillaxing with “his trotters up” — as EastEnders star Danny Dyer once memorably accused him of doing — Cameron is embroiled in the very scandal he predicted.
The ex-Prime Minister stands accused of using his old contacts in government — notably the now Chancellor, Rishi Sunak — to try and get hundreds of millions in taxpayer-funded loans for a company he worked for.
Mr Cameron had shares in the financial services firm Greensill Capital that he reportedly hoped could net him a £43million windfall.
Accusations of Tory sleaze — the war cry which laid ruin to John Major’s administration — have landed in old sparring partner Boris Johnson’s lap like an Eton mess.
On Monday, the Prime Minister announced a “thorough” investigation into Cameron’s lobbying.
'THE PM ISN'T PULLING HIS PUNCHES'
“The PM isn’t pulling his punches on this,” said a Whitehall insider. “He doesn’t want this kicked into the long grass and wants it done by June.”
But yesterday Labour plans for a full parliamentary inquiry were defeated by the Government.
Cameron denies he has broken any rules — but will the man once nicknamed the Heir to Blair now be remembered as Dodgy Dave?
The Old Etonian’s political career came to end in 2016 when he quit Downing Street and his MP role after losing the Brexit referendum that he had called.
In 2018, he joined Greensill. He didn’t break rules which state “ministers will be prohibited from lobbying government for two years”.
But Cameron’s links to the company’s boss, Lex Greensill, go much further back.
Indeed, the smooth-talking Australian had worked as an unpaid adviser to Cameron when he was Prime Minister.
A former sugar cane farmer, Greensill was introduced to Downing Street in 2011 by Jeremy Heywood — then the country’s most powerful civil servant.
The pair had met at a Wall Street bank. Heywood, who died in 2018, was impressed by Greensill’s big idea — using private loans to help pay government suppliers on time.
The man from Down Under was even given Downing Street business cards as he helped set up a payment scheme, that was based on his firm’s “supply chain finance” model.
Greensill Capital began providing funding to pharmacies through this scheme in 2018.
But Cameron insists he met Greensill “twice at most in the entirety of my time as Prime Minister”.
‘BORIS FANNED THE FLAMES’
Fast forward to April last year and, as the pandemic started to take hold and Greensill Capital began to run into financial problems, Cameron got out his contacts book.
He texted Chancellor Rishi Sunak asking for emergency funding. A source close to Sunak said Cameron had messaged the Chancellor “multiple times”.
The Chancellor told the former PM he would “push” his officials to explore how to help Greensill Capital but insisted there were “no guarantees”.
Cameron also lobbied Treasury ministers Jesse Norman and John Glen.
But Cameron’s pleas for Treasury loans for Greensill fell on deaf ears.
The firm went bust last month putting the jobs of 5,000 British workers at Liberty Steel — backed by Greensill funds — at risk.
Since then the scandal has unravelled. It emerged that in 2019, Cameron and Greensill also met Health Secretary Matt Hancock for a “private drink” to discuss a new payment scheme for NHS staff.
Then this week it was revealed that a top civil servant during Cameron’s Downing Street tenure was also working for Greensill.
Senior official Bill Crothers spent several months both as government procurement head and adviser to Greensill’s board.
He later received shares that could have been worth more than £5million.
The part-time position was signed off by the Cabinet Office. He would later quit and work full-time for Greensill.
Crothers wrote this week: “I was transparent about the move to Greensill Capital, and it was well known at the time.”
A photo has emerged of Mr Cameron and Mr Greensill sipping tea on a desert camping trip to lobby Mohammed bin Salman in early 2020.
That’s the Saudi Crown Prince whose initials MBS have been used as a nickname — Mr Bone Saw.
The trip came just months after MBS is believed to have ordered the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. His murderers used a bone saw to hack him to pieces.
The former PM was invited on the trip in his role as a paid adviser and lobbyist for Greensill.
At the time, a United Nations report had already found “credible links” between the crown prince and the murder of Khashoggi in October 2018.
The US later formally accused bin Salman of approving the killing.
With the scent of what they believe is sleaze in their nostrils, the Opposition are in full cry.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer quipped of the convoluted scandal in the Commons yesterday: “Ted Hastings and AC-12 are needed to get to the bottom of this one.”
He added: “The Greensill scandal is just the tip of the iceberg — dodgy contracts, privileged access, jobs for their mates. This is the return of Tory sleaze.”
Cameron has denied that he broke any rules or codes of conduct. He said he welcomes the investigation launched by Johnson, his old Eton and Oxford contemporary.
The PM — who put paid to Mr Cameron’s career by backing the Leave campaign — has vowed investigators would get “maximum possible access”.
A former MP who was close to Cameron said: “This could have been swerved by No10 but instead Boris has fanned the flames with the inquiry.
“No10 says it’s all about transparency, but I think it’s partly about Boris needling Dave.”
Cameron’s usually astute political antennae correctly picked up lobbying’s potential for pitfall all those years ago.
Now the man who was twice Prime Minister must wait to see if the Greensill probe will tarnish his reputation.
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