David Cameron’s surprise return to the political forefront as the United Kingdom’s foreign secretary has reignited discussions surrounding the Greensill lobbying scandal, which continues to haunt his political career.
Seven years after stepping down as the country’s prime minister following the Brexit referendum, Cameron reappeared on the political scene, earning a life peerage and taking up a role in Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Cabinet. This unexpected comeback has thrust Cameron back into the media spotlight, drawing attention to the Greensill lobbying scandal that surfaced in 2021.
Cameron’s return comes just two years after a parliamentary inquiry found him to have a “significant lack of judgment” regarding a bank’s lobbying campaign in which his financial interests were involved.
How did Cameron advocate for Greensill Capital?
Greensill Capital, founded by Australian financier Lex Greensill and specializing in supply chain finance, sought government work during Cameron’s tenure as prime minister. After leaving office, Cameron joined Greensill Capital as an adviser in 2016, receiving share options worth millions of pounds.
As the pandemic unfolded, Cameron, through intensive text messages, sought government support for Greensill Capital, addressing high-ranking civil servants and ministers. However, Greensill Capital collapsed in the following year.
In July 2021, the Treasury select committee deemed Cameron’s actions inappropriate, stating that he sent 62 messages to ministers and officials, urging them to assist the controversial bank. The messages, including appeals to provide Greensill access to the government’s coronavirus loan support scheme, were sent to figures such as Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Sir Tom Scholar, Richard Sharp, Michael Gove, Matt Hancock, Nadhim Zahawi, John Glen, and Jesse Norman.
The Treasury committee’s report concluded that while Cameron did not break any lobbying rules, it underscored the need to strengthen regulations preventing former prime ministers from lobbying for personal economic gain.
What is Greensill Capital?
Greensill Capital, founded by Lex Greensill, specializes in supply chain finance, allowing businesses to borrow money for supplier payments. Despite Cameron’s lobbying efforts, the firm failed to receive funds from the coronavirus scheme, leading to its collapse in March 2021, estimated to have cost UK taxpayers up to £5 billion ($6.21 billion).
Greensill Capital faced controversy due to its association with steel and commodities trader Sanjeev Gupta, contributing substantial sums to his steel and energy empire. The Gupta Family Group Alliance, led by Gupta, has been under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office since 2021.
Findings of the Treasury Committee’s report
The Treasury committee’s report concluded that Cameron did not break lobbying rules but highlighted the inadequacy of existing regulations. It emphasized the “significant lack of judgment” displayed by Cameron in using informal means to lobby the government, advocating for stricter rules to prevent former prime ministers from lobbying for personal economic gain.
Cameron acknowledged the report’s wider points, stating that he always acted in good faith and was unaware of Greensill Capital’s impending failure until the end of the previous year.
As Lex Greensill faces a ban as a director of UK companies, David Cameron’s role as Foreign Secretary has once again come under scrutiny.