U.K.’s Cameron Breaks Silence on Greensill, Defends Lobbying

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Former U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron broke his silence over the controversy of his lobbying for Greensill Capital, defending his actions while acknowledging there were “important lessons” to be learned.

“I thought it was right for me to make representations on behalf of a company involved in financing a large number of U.K. firms,” Cameron said in a statement running almost 2,000 words. “This was at a time of crisis for the U.K. economy, where everyone was looking for efficient ways to get money to businesses.”

Cameron and top Cabinet ministers have come under fire in recent weeks for their connections to Greensill, which specialized in financing supply-chain invoices and collapsed last month.

An adviser to the company, Cameron lobbied Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak to give Greensill access to Britain’s pandemic support program. He also arranged a private meeting with Health Secretary Matthew Hancock, after which a Greensill payment program was used in the National Health Service, according to the Sunday Times.

U.K.’s Cameron Breaks Silence on Greensill, Defends Lobbying

“In my representations to government, I was breaking no codes of conduct and no government rules,” he said after the latest revelations.

Cameron also said that upon further reflection, there were “important lessons” to be drawn about how former ministers and prime ministers interact with the government, and that communications “need to be done through only the most formal of channels, so there can be no room for misinterpretation.”

What Next?

The question now is whether this statement will be enough to stem the political fallout for the Conservative government of Boris Johnson. The scandal risked compromising two senior figures in the prime minister’s inner circle.

The Greensill affair has also fueled accusations of cronyism against the Tories, adding to criticisms of a lack of transparency when awarding contracts during the coronavirus pandemic. Many tenders were awarded without a competitive process and went to individuals or companies with connections to the Tories, the National Audit Office said in November.

“Every day brings fresh revelations about the culture of cronyism at the heart of this Conservative government,” Bridget Phillipson, the Labour Party’s shadow secretary to the Treasury said in an email. “Through David Cameron, Greensill looks to have had the run of Government from Number 10 down, including access to millions of pounds of public money.”

The growing fallout from Cameron’s lobbying for Greensill comes ahead of local and mayoral elections on May 6, where Johnson’s Conservatives have an eight-point lead over the main opposition Labour Party, according to latest YouGov polling. Johnson is enjoying a bounce in popularity thanks to Britain’s successful vaccination program, though the lobbying controversy may puncture some goodwill among voters.

The demise of Greensill has also put thousands of U.K. jobs at risk because the future of companies in Sanjeev Gupta’s GFG Alliance -- including steel mills in Britain -- is in doubt without access to Greensill’s financing. In his statement, Cameron said he feels “desperately sorry” for those affected.

Cameron distanced himself from the loans given to GFG and from Greensill Capital, stressing he was not on its board and that he had met founder Lex Greensill no more than twice while he was prime minister.

He defended the direct nature of his contact with the government, via text and e-mail, saying it was necessary because ministers “welcomed real time information and dialogue.”

“It was a time of national crisis with fears about businesses’ access to credit,” he said. “Greensill Capital wanted to offer a genuine and legitimate proposal to help with this.”

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