‘We don’t know who is meeting whom’: What David Cameron said about lobbying in 2010

On Tuesday, MPs vote on whether to establish a more wide-ranging probe into the Cameron lobbying scandal

Matt Mathers
Wednesday 14 April 2021 13:36 BST

As a young Conservative leader with his eyes firmly on the prize of No 10 Downing Street, David Cameron was once on a mission to "clean up politics".

During a party conference speech in 2010, the future prime minister predicted that corporate lobbying would become "the next big scandal" as he attempted to capitalise on the fall out from the MPs expenses row.

Just over a decade later, Mr Cameron's prophecy has come true as he faces growing questions about his conduct while lobbying elected ministers for the scandal-hit private finance firm, Greensill Capital.

The row deepened on Tuesday night after it emerged that former top civil servant, Bill Crothers, joined Greensill as a part-time advisor while working as a procurement chief in Whitehall.

On Tuesday afternoon, MPs will vote on whether to etablish a more wide-ranging parliamentary inquiry into Mr Cameron's conduct after Boris Johnson's probe was branded a "Conservative cover-up" by Labour.

Mr Cameron insists he did not break any rules while lobbying for Greensill, although he admitted that his contacts with the chancellor, Rishi Sunak and health secretary, Matt Hancock should have been conducted "through only the most formal of channels".

The former prime minister, known to his friends as "Dave", texted Mr Sunak and is said to have met with Mr Hancock for a drink. Mr Cameron served as PM from 2010 to 2016, during which time he appointed Lex Greensill, Greensill Capital's boss, as a "senior adviser to the prime minister".

Some Whitehall insiders are suggesting this means that Lex Greensill could have met with many more ministers and officials without having to log such conversations through the formal channels.

So as MPs prepare to vote on whether to establish a more far-reaching probe into Mr Cameron's conduct, The Independent takes a look at what else the former prime minister said during his 2010 speech.

"We don’t know who is meeting whom," Mr Cameron told the Conservative Party faithful in Birmingham.

"We don’t know whether any favours are being exchanged. We don’t know which outside interests are wielding unhealthy influence," he said of the multi-billion pound industry “that has a large presence in parliament”.

"This isn’t a minor issue with minor consequences. Commercial interests - not to mention government contracts - worth hundreds of billions of pounds are potentially at stake," he went on.

Mr Crothers, who has now been dragged into the scandal, joined Greensill as a part-time advisor in September 2015 while still working for the civil service and in charge of billions of pounds worth of government contracts.

He didn't leave his Whitehall job until 2015 - a move that was green-lighted by the Cabinet Office, whose minister at the time was Mr Hancock, who is said to have been lobbied by Mr Cameron over a drink with Mr Greensill in 2019.

“We all know how it works," Mr Cameron went on in his address. "The lunches, the hospitality, the quiet word in your ear, the ex-ministers and ex-advisers for hire, helping big business find the right way to get its way.

"In this party, we believe in competition, not cronyism. We believe in market economics, not crony capitalism. So we must be the party that sorts all this out."

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