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12 April 2021updated 13 Apr 2021 10:22am

Why the David Cameron lobbying scandal isn’t over

As the economic effects of Greensill’s collapse are felt, the story could cause greater political discomfort for the government.

By Stephen Bush

David Cameron has released a 1,800 word statement about his work for Greensill. The short version? He didn’t break any laws (which, remember, he helped to write) but he does have lessons to learn from the affair. 

The statement could be laboratory-designed to prolong rather than end the row. If Cameron behaved improperly but broke no laws, that raises obvious questions about the effectiveness of the laws his government brought in, while we are still no closer to having clarity about what, exactly, Cameron said in his messages to Rishi Sunak

[See also: Could David Cameron face criminal charges for lobbying?

Gordon Brown thinks he has the right idea on how to tackle the problem: a five-year cooling-off period in which former prime ministers cannot engage in any lobbying activities. It would mean that Cameron would only just be entering the world of lobbying – but of course, the unique benefits of having a former prime minister on speed dial would still apply. Cameron would still have a direct personal relationship with the chancellor, the health secretary and a host of junior ministers. 

[Hear more on the New Statesman podcast]

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The reality is that if you want to cut down on lobbying by former prime ministers, you need far sharper permanent curbs on what politicians, particularly senior ones, can do once they leave office. 

At present the story is still largely a niche one: a preoccupation of people who follow politics fairly closely. But that’s in part because the economic effects of Greensill’s collapse have yet to be fully felt. A story confined to the bubble could yet become one that causes the incumbent government, not just Cameron, real political discomfort over the coming weeks and months.

[See also: How bad is the Greensill scandal for Rishi Sunak?]