Call me naively cynical, but when reports of David Cameron’s lobbying larks emerged, I gave a little shrug. ‘Ex-politician uses contacts to make money’ sounds like a description of our political culture rather than a hard-hitting news headline. Perhaps it is a little grubbier when a former prime minister is caught lining his pockets — but only because those pockets are supposed to have been cut by a higher class of tailor.
Cameron used his heaving address book to press ministers on behalf of Greensill Capital, a company involved in the game of contractual jiggery pokery called ‘supply chain finance’ (which sounds suspiciously like corporate rent seeking). But he was fobbed off. And so surely the story ends? Greensill goes under, ministers and taxpayers’ noses are kept relatively clean, and Cameron’s already considerable cheeks are stuffed with yet more gold.
Yes, he demeaned himself. Sipping tea in a Saudi autocrat’s tent is certainly unpleasant. Particularly when the royal in question is widely believed to have ordered the dismemberment of a journalist. Cameron, as an aside, has used the well-worn formula to try to deflect criticism: while scrounging for petro-dollars on behalf of his new master Lex Greensill — the Aussie farm boy done good, now accused of being not so good — the former statesman ‘raised concerns about human rights’. Pull the other one Dave. It’s all rather distasteful.
But what is Cameron guilty of that hasn’t been done hundreds of times before? Of course, that doesn’t make it right. Cameron deserves to be hoisted up by his laces for the central sin of trying to sway ministers, if only to scare other Westminster has-beens into protecting their diminutive reputations.