U.K. Official Loses Replies to Texts Cameron Signed ‘Love Dc’
(Bloomberg) -- The top official in the U.K. Treasury lost records of his replies to lobbying texts from former Prime Minister David Cameron because his phone was reset after the wrong password was used, the government revealed Thursday in response to a Freedom of Information request from Bloomberg.
Cameron last year sent dozens of text and WhatsApp messages to officials in the Bank of England, Treasury and other government departments as he sought to gain access for the now insolvent lender Greensill Capital -- which employed him -- to a state-backed coronavirus lending program.
While Cameron ultimately failed to persuade the Treasury to accede to Greensill’s requests, the intensity of his lobbying has put pressure on senior members of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s administration to explain whether they gave him special favors. Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak last month published his responses to Cameron, including one in which he told the former premier he’d “pushed” his officials to consider helping Greensill.
Among messages Cameron disclosed earlier this month to the House of Commons Treasury Committee -- which is investigating the lobbying -- were 12 exchanges with Treasury Permanent Secretary Tom Scholar, whose replies weren’t disclosed. Now, in response to Bloomberg’s request, the Treasury said it’s unable to do so.
“The Treasury does not hold this information,” the department said in its response. “On 1 June 2020, Mr Scholar’s mobile phone had to be reset, after being automatically locked when an incorrect password was entered several times.”
While the revelation about the lost texts may prompt accusations of a cover-up, the Treasury said the resetting of the phone was a “standard security feature on Treasury mobile phones.” The Treasury didn’t say whether it was Scholar himself who inputted the wrong password.
Cameron’s texts to Scholar attracted the committee’s attention because of the former prime minister’s familiar tone with a man who had been a top official also during his own premiership, from 2010 to 2016. He signed two of them “Love Dc” and offered Scholar lunch. He also said he’d meet him with Sunak “for an elbow bump or foot tap.”
Taking evidence from the former premier on May 13, Harriett Baldwin, a panel member from Cameron’s own Conservative Party, asked him about the “love Dc” sign-off. “Can you help the Committee understand why you used that to him?,” she asked. “Do you have a closer or a wider personal relationship outside the formal one that you have just described?”
Cameron replied that he signs that way to “anyone I know even at all well.”
“I don’t know why; I just do,” he said. “My children tell me that you don’t need to sign off text messages at all and that it is very old-fashioned and odd to do so. Anyway, that’s what I do.”
But unless Scholar remembers what he wrote, the U.K. public will now never find out if he signed “love” on any of his replies.
Not all is lost. Scholar copied one of his text replies into an email on the same day he sent it. That was published by the Treasury in another Freedom of Information disclosure last month.
It reads: “Thanks for all that. We’re hoping to get a decision over the weekend. Well done for holding off [REDACTED TEXT] Not often anyone manages that.”
There was no “Love Ts” sign-off for Cameron.
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