Few former British prime ministers easily adapt to post-Downing Street life or gain the respect accorded to some former leaders around the world. But few of them have fallen as far or as fast as David Cameron, who on Thursday made his first public appearance since a lobbying scandal shed a ruthless light on his character, in addition to the moral transformation of British public life.
The embarrassing situation Cameron finds himself in is particularly surprising because over a decade ago, when he was not yet Prime Minister, and after protests over parliamentary spending, he himself warned that a crisis surrounding the activity of lobbyists would be the next big scandal waiting to happen ”. “We all know how it works,” Cameron said in a 2010 speech.
“Lunches, hospitality, whispers, ex-ministers and ex-advisers ready to sell their services, helping big companies find the best way to achieve their goals.”
By videoconference to a parliamentary committee, Cameron was unrepentant for her efforts at the start of the pandemic to contact the highest levels of government and seek support from the financial firm Greensill Capital, which was struggling and for which she worked.
Cameron’s frantic lobbying work included a flurry of over 60 text messages, emails and other messages, but it had no effect. Greensill Capital went bankrupt and its financial difficulties put thousands of jobs at risk, prompting a series of investigations.
During Thursday’s hearing, Cameron remained calm and dismissed reports that he could make tens of millions of dollars from Greensil’s stock options as absurd. He declined to give details, but admitted that he had a “serious economic interest” in the success of the business, that he was paid “generously” for it and that he earned more than the salary of his Prime Minister. He also did not deny that he used the company’s private jet to get to his vacation home in Cornwall.
The publication of his posts earlier in the week revealed how ready the former prime minister, who resigned in 2016, was to cajole former colleagues and advisers, including one with whom he had had a very public feud a few times. years earlier. “I know you are very busy and doing a fantastic job,” Cameron wrote to Secretary Michael Gove in a text message.
Ahead of a referendum in 2016, Gove’s decision to support Brexit infuriated Cameron, who, in his memoir published in 2019, accused his colleague of behaving “abominably” and wrote: “As for Michael, a characteristic that stands out above all . Disloyalty ”.
In messages sent last year, Cameron also told Economy Minister Rishi Sunak that he was “doing a great job” – and made sure that senior officials were aware of his contacts with Sunak. “Meet at Rishi for a touch of elbows or feet [cumprimento adotado devido à Covid]. Hug, DC, ”Cameron concluded in a message he sent to Tom Scholar, the government’s top Treasury adviser.
Cameron resigned from his post as Prime Minister after making the fatal bet that he could convince the British to vote against Brexit in the 2016 referendum. As a result, he found himself unexpectedly unemployed.
After leaving Downing Street relatively young, at 49, Cameron initially maintained a low profile. He bought a cabin where he isolated himself to write his memoirs and strictly obey the law that prohibits former politicians from working for companies for two years after leaving politics.
When he subsequently joined Greensill Capital, he was no longer required to comply with the transparency obligations imposed on outside professional lobbyists as he was directly employed by the company. If the old premieres do not have a clear role to play in public life, analysts are nevertheless surprised by Cameron’s choices.
“Considering the money former prime ministers can earn today by giving lectures, one would assume they would not be reduced to this,” said Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary University. from London. “I think we have evidence here of a decline in moral standards. You can’t imagine Margaret Thatcher doing something like this.
Greensill presents itself as an intermediary between the government and the beneficiaries, offering to speed up payments to businesses and individuals. In the case of individuals, Cameron has advocated the practice as a kind of popular alternative to unsecured short-term loan programs. But most of the loans have gone to companies that do business with the government, and critics have always questioned the prudence of resorting to a third-party finance company, rather than simply speeding up payments made by the government.
Bale said it was hard to imagine another former prime minister openly lobbying ministers – not even Tony Blair, who has been widely criticized for his work as a consultant. “This illustrates a drop in standards. In the past, this sort of thing “was not done”, and now it is, “explains the professor. But for him, the bright side is that “all the embarrassment David Cameron has faced may discourage some of his successors.”