David Cameron lobbying scandal

Former British Prime Minister uses Whatsapp, text messages and emails in an attempt to win government support for his finance company

The former Prime Minister appeared before the parliamentary committee via video link.

— 2 minute read — By Sam Portillo

Former Prime Minister David Cameron was called to answer questions before a parliamentary committee in relation to his controversial private communications with current ministers and civil servants, where he attempted to gain government support for a company for whom he worked.

Finance company Greensill Capital employed Cameron as an adviser in 2018, two years after he left 10 Downing Street. The company’s operations included providing loans to small and medium-sized businesses. Cameron said that he believed that, with the backing of the government, Greensill could help to protect such businesses survive the pandemic. “I think there are very strong and important parts to supply chain finance that can have a real social benefit. That is why I joined the company in the first place,” he told MPs at the hearing.

The finance company’s attempts to lobby the government were ultimately unsuccessful, but not for a lack of trying. Between March and June 2020, Cameron sent 45 messages and emails to Wesminster officials as he tried to persuade them to extend eligibility for government financial support to cover companies like Greensill. Of the 45 communications, 9 were WhatsApp messages to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, and 12 were text messages to Sir Tom Scholar, the most senior civil servant at the Treasury.

Recreation of a message sent from David Cameron to the top civil servant at the Treausry.

Speaking to the questionning MPs from his webcam, Cameron reiterated his belief that he had not broken any rules, although admitted that he should have sought government officials through more “formal” channels of communication. He also confirmed that he owned shares in the company, which would have him placed to make personal gains from the government’s support, but rubbished allegations that he would have netted £60 million.

Perhaps ironically, Greensill Capital did not survive the pandemic themselves, and their collapse caused the loss of 440 jobs. While Cameron passionately believes in the right of a former Prime Minister to indulge in commercial endeavours, his predecessor in Downing Street Gordon Brown has suggested there should be no such contact between former Prime Ministers and government departments.