David Cameron was told Thursday that his persistent lobbying of ministers, asking for favors on behalf of the controversial bank he worked for, had “demoted” the prime minister’s position and left his “reputation in tatters.”
The former prime minister was forced to deny that his text message and WhatsApp lobbying campaign on behalf of Greensill Capital were fueled by fears that an “opportunity to make a lot of money was at risk.”
Cameron, who joined Greensill as an advisor and lobbyist exactly two years after leaving Number 10, repeatedly refused to tell MPs how much money he could make from Greensill before the bank collapsed last year.
He told MPs that he was paid “a generous amount, much more than what he earned as prime minister,” but refused to give even a ballpark figure, claiming that his salary was “a private matter.”
Cameron, 56, also declined to say how many shares he had been awarded in the bank. He dismissed as “completely absurd” reports that he had bragged to friends that he could make £ 60 million from a successful IPO of the supply chain finance company.
The former prime minister also admitted that he had used Greensill’s private jet to fly to his holiday home in Cornwall on several occasions, and blamed a misspelling for a text message to Sir Tom Scolar, permanent secretary to the Treasury, in which seemed to ask why the Bank of England had cut interest rates when the coronavirus crisis hit financial markets and the economy. The text read: “I never really understood how rate cuts help a pandemic.”
Cameron told MPs: “I was quite taken aback by this text message because obviously rate cuts are a very appropriate thing to do in a difficult time. I think I am a victim of a spell checker here. I think it was a VAT reduction … I think it was responding to something that was in the news. “
Mel Stride, conservative chairman of the Treasury select committee, told Cameron that “a lot of people would conclude that at the time of their lobbying, their chance of making a lot of money was at risk.”
Cameron denied he was motivated by money and claimed he was trying to help the economy recover from the pandemic. He said it was important for the country to know that he had a huge “financial stake, absolutely” in Greensill’s success, but said his lobbying was “unaffected by quantity.” When pressed further, he added: “By anyone’s terms, it was a generous salary.”
In an unprecedented move underscoring Cameron’s fall from grace, he was brought before two select parliamentary committees Thursday to face more than four hours of intense questioning about his role in Greensill’s collapse. The bankruptcy of the lender has put 5,000 steelmaking jobs in jeopardy in the UK as the bank was a key lender for Liberty Steel.
Rushanara Ali, a Labor MP for Bethnal Green and Bow and a member of the select committee, told Cameron that his persistent pressure on ministers had driven the country and the post of prime minister into “discredit.”
She said Lex Greensill, the bank’s founder and CEO, was a “scammer.”
“At best,” Greensill had used it, Ali said, “and at worst, frankly, exploiting your reputation and discrediting the former prime minister’s office, and you agreed.”
She added: “You played along and should have been a lot more careful about due diligence, turning a blind eye to things that were glaringly obvious.”
Cameron, who served as prime minister between 2010 and 2016, responded: “Well, obviously, I have a different opinion.”
Ali told him that the country was “enormously disappointed” with him and that “this whole episode is deeply disappointing for our country and our democracy.”
“You should have known better. You were the future once.”
She said Cameron would come out on the other side of the Greensill crisis as “the man with the Teflon and a great survivor”, while taxpayers would be left picking up a bill of more than a billion pounds for the bank collapse.
Siobhain McDonagh, a Labor MP on the Treasury committee, asked if Cameron felt he had “downgraded himself and his position by doing WhatsApp in Whitehall, on the basis of a fraudulent venture, based on the sale of high-debt bonds. risk to unsuspecting investors. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism