Qatar’s World Cup lobbying operation

Lobbying was a persistent theme of 2021 as first David Cameron and then Owen Paterson found themselves embroiled in various scandals over their paid activities. So it was with some trepidation that Mr S examined the first register of All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) of 2022. These informal cross-party organisations have been involved in all sorts of shenanigans over the years. What have they been up to in recent months? A close inspection revealed some interesting gems. Theresa May’s office is bankrolling the ‘First Do No Harm’ campaign, being the sole donor of some £20,000 towards the APPG’s efforts on securing safer medical devices for women in pregnancy. British American Tobacco is

MPs vote to overhaul their own watchdog

MPs have voted in favour of overhauling their own watchdog after its decision to ban a senior Tory backbencher from the House of Commons. The committee on standards found that former minister Owen Paterson had breached lobbying rules and recommended he be suspended from the House for 30 days. However, the government backed an amendment to the vote on his suspension — normally treated as a formality — that will now see a new committee set up to fix ‘potential defects’ in the way the current disciplinary system works. Detractors of the cross-party body have accused the standards commissioner, Kathryn Stone, of anti-Tory bias. Paterson himself has said that the protracted

Stonewall and the problem with taxpayer funded campaigning

Liz Truss, the minister for women and equalities, is reportedly keen to see government departments withdraw from Stonewall’s ‘Diversity Champions’ programme. The scheme, which around 250 departments and public bodies have signed up to, sees quangos and other public sector bodies pay for guidance on issues such as gender-neutral toilets, pronouns, and transgender inclusion. Debates rage about the efficacy – or even legitimacy – of such programmes. But underpinning that discourse is the fact that huge sums of taxpayers’ money have been handed over to what are undoubtedly controversial campaigns. As well as receiving cash for the Diversity Champions programme, new research by the TaxPayers’ Alliance shows that Stonewall also

The shamelessness of David Cameron

I’m almost starting to admire David Cameron. Almost. There is something that borders on the impressive about the former prime minister’s dedication to the destruction of his own reputation. He may have been a casually idle premier, but he’s really rolled up his sleeves and got stuck into the job of trashing his own name. How many times did he use the private jets of his collapsed finance firm to travel between his houses? Can’t remember. How much did said collapsed financial contraption pay him for services including pestering senior civil servants with texts signed ‘Love, DC’? Not saying, but it was much more than the mere £150k he got

The return of Tory sleaze?

‘It’s the return of Tory sleaze’: so said Keir Starmer at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday. His was an assertion immediately echoed by various leading Labour figures across social media. Former prime minister David Cameron’s questionable relationship with Greensill Capital is the immediate occasion for this potentially toxic claim. But Labour clearly hopes to drag Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak and many other ministers into the mix. For, as Starmer went on, ‘sleaze’ is ‘at the heart of this Conservative government’. In contrast, Johnson is seeking to protect himself against the taint of ‘sleaze’ by announcing an inquiry into claims of impropriety. Perhaps it will protect him. But in the meantime,

What happened to Cameron’s original retirement plan?

When David Cameron started contemplating life after Downing Street, he settled quite quickly on a model of what it should look like. He would stay on the backbenches, providing advice and wisdom to whoever came after him, earn a little bit of extra money while still working as an MP, and continue in public service with charities and others. In 2016, he outlined his approach to me as we sat in a cafe in Witney, and I wrote it up in my book, Why We Get The Wrong Politicians: He mourned the number of former ministers who had departed at the 2015 election, and suggested that you could do other

The shoddy cynicism of Cameron’s lobbying

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

The delightful humiliation of David Cameron

Say what you like about David Cameron, the man never stops trying to exceed expectations. I once thought that he’d never do anything sadder than giving his wife’s stylist an honour then running away from parliament like a child. Then he proved me wrong by publishing his memoirs. And now, demonstrating his unstinting commitment to the cause of his own humiliation, he has reinvented himself as a shoddy lobbyist. When he naffed off after making a horlicks of the referendum, Cameron warbled the usual shiny words about duty to the nation. It turns out he meant it: in these dark times, we all need a laugh, so we should thank

How big business failed in its plot to stop Brexit

A little over a year ago, at the nadir of the May administration’s excruciating bungling of Brexit, the Daily Telegraph landed a dynamite exclusive. The Chancellor, Philip Hammond, and Business Secretary Greg Clark had hosted a confidential conference call for corporate bosses in which they said the threat of a no-deal Brexit was effectively off the table. And the Telegraph had obtained a tape recording of the whole thing. Behind the backs of the British people, the well-upholstered felines of big business were being told that a huge Commons defeat for May’s withdrawal agreement (it had just lost by 230 votes) did not mean that Brexit would go ahead on