Greensill inquiry yields more sleaze with each serpentine twist

Labour seizes moment to highlight decade of Conservatives in power and corruption links

Offices of collapsed finance firm Greensill near Warrington, northwest England: Health secretary Matt Hancock admits to a “private drink” with David Cameron and Lex Greensill while contracts were up for grabs. Photograph: Oli Scarff

Offices of collapsed finance firm Greensill near Warrington, northwest England: Health secretary Matt Hancock admits to a “private drink” with David Cameron and Lex Greensill while contracts were up for grabs. Photograph: Oli Scarff

 

The speed with which Boris Johnson announced an inquiry this week into David Cameron’s lobbying on behalf of Australian financier Lex Greensill suggested that the prime minister thought his government had nothing to hide. Some commentators even suggested that the prime minister welcomed the opportunity to embarrass his old rival and near contemporary at Eton and Oxford.

But as each day brings a new, serpentine twist to the Greensill saga, its peril for the prime minister and his government comes into ever-closer focus. Labour sees an opportunity to remind voters of the Conservatives’ association with sleaze and to remind voters that the governing party has been in power for more than a decade.

‘Paid lobbyists’

“Every day, there is further evidence of the sleaze that is now at the heart of this Conservative government,” Labour leader Keir Starmer said at prime minister’s questions on Wednesday.

“Does the prime minister accept that there is a revolving door – indeed, an open door – between his Conservative government and paid lobbyists?”

Johnson sought to brush aside the allegations but as Labour’s shadow cabinet office minister, Rachel Reeves, pointed out later, Cameron is not the only Conservative with questions to answer. Chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak has published text messages he sent to Cameron promising to “push” civil servants on a possible role for Greensill in the coronavirus recovery plan. And health secretary Matt Hancock has admitted to having a “private drink” with Cameron and Greensill while contracts were up for grabs.

PM’s flat

“When it comes to lobbying it takes two to tango. For every former minister lobbying, there is someone in power being lobbied,” Reeves said.

“This is why this scandal isn’t just about the conduct of David Cameron during his time as prime minister and in the years since then. This is about who he lobbied in the current government and how they responded.”

Reeves also mentioned questions surrounding the refurbishment of Johnson’s private flat in Downing Street, where a Conservative party donor is reported to have paid the £60,000 cost. The government does not have to publish full details of the cost until July, by which time the prime minister may have paid back whatever is owed.

But the whiff of sleaze lingers and it is at its strongest at the centre of this government.

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