David Cameron broke his silence last night on the Greensill affair after more than a month without comment. The statement of the Tory prime minister has failed to quell questions as to whether he acted improperly in his approaches to various ministers, with Number 10 today announcing an independent investigation – something Boris Johnson no doubt enjoyed.
It seems fair to say that Cameron has been a less successful ex-PM than he was as premier, having seen his UK-China fund run into the sands, his memoirs fail to match his predecessors and his National Citizen Scheme facing calls to be defunded.
In light of the ongoing Greensill row, Steerpike thought it would be helpful to provide a round-up of some of Cameron’s comments on lobbying from a decade ago, back when the then Leader of the Opposition and subsequent Coalition PM was seizing the mantle of reform, post-expenses scandal.
8 February 2010 speech on ‘Rebuilding trust in politics’: ‘I’m talking about lobbying – and we all know how it works. The lunches, the hospitality, the quiet word in your ear, the ex-ministers and ex-advisors for hire, helping big business find the right way to get its way.’
8 February 2010: ‘Guidelines are simply that: guidance issued to ex-ministers by the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, explaining what kind of jobs they can take up. Today, ex-Ministers can ignore this advice without sanction. So we will rewrite the Ministerial Code to make clear that anyone who ignores the advice of the Committee will be forced to give up some or all of their Ministerial pension.’
8 February 2010: ‘I believe that secret corporate lobbying, like the expenses scandal, goes to the heart of why people are so fed up with politics. It arouses people's worst fears and suspicions about how our political system works.’
8 February 2010: ‘Dealing with the lobbying issue may be painful, but it needs to happen and because we are from a new generation at ease with openness and accountability, because we believe in social responsibility not state control, we will clean things up.’
23 March 2010 speech on ‘Getting our country moving again’: ‘There is a deepening suspicion that politicians are out to serve themselves and not the country. A couple of months ago I said that this was the next big scandal waiting to happen. I warned that the culture of excessive lobbying and quiet words in the Minister's ear was threatening to do even more damage to the battered reputation of Parliament.
23 March 2010: ‘We'll extend to ten years the period during which ex-Ministers must seek advice from the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments.’
19 October 2011 on the Adam Werrity scandal at PMQs ‘Even the former leader and Prime Minister has in the last few months got £120,000 for speeches to Credit Suisse, Visa and Citibank. He told us he had put the money into the banks; we did not know he would get it out so quickly.’
12 April 2021 in the aftermath of Greensill: ‘In my representations to government, I was breaking no codes of conduct and no government rules. The Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists has found that my activities did not fall within the criteria that require registration… There are important lessons to be learnt. As a former prime minister, I accept that communications with government need to be done through only the most formal of channels, so there can be no room for misinterpretation.’
And as a bonus...
6 December 2011, Prime Minister’s spokesman on the Tim Collins scandal: ‘In my experience in the civil service, the official process is the best one to pursue. If companies want to spend money on lobbyists, that is a matter for them.'