Socialist Worker

Greensill revelations show how a corrupt system aids the rich

A revolving door between ministers and private firms helps the rich hold onto their cash—and democracy means little in the networks that shape governments, says Charlie Kimber

Issue No. 2750

David Cameron speaking to his boss lobbying mates at the CBI bosses conference in 2014

David Cameron speaking to his mates at the CBI bosses' conference in 2014 (Pic: Number 10/Flickr)


Revelations about former Tory prime minister David Cameron have lifted the lid on the networks of money and influence that shape government policy.

Democracy and accountability are strictly prohibited.

When Cameron was prime ­minister, banker Lex Greensill became an adviser in Downing Street.

When Cameron was no longer prime minister, Greensill hired him as an adviser to his firm Greensill Capital. As this company became desperately short of funds, Cameron intervened to promote it.

He lobbied at least four government ministers on behalf of Greensill—chancellor Rishi Sunak, health secretary Matt Hancock and two Treasury ministers.

The Treasury last year rejected an application from Greensill to access the CCCF Covid emergency loan scheme.

Cameron emailed Boris Johnson’s senior special adviser at No 10 within hours of the decision.

He said it was “nuts” to exclude Greensill’s company and demanded the government reconsider.

“What we need is for Rishi [Sunak] to have a good look at this and ask officials to find a way of making it work,” Cameron wrote.

Texts released last week show Sunak telling Cameron he had “pushed the team to explore an alternative with the Bank that might work”. There was also a call between the pair.

While access to the CCFF was ultimately rebuffed, Greensill Capital was later accredited to the coronavirus large business interruption loan scheme.

This handed it the ability to access government-backed loans of up to £50 million.

Millions

Cameron held tens of millions of pounds of share options in Greensill. It has since gone bust, threatening 55,000 jobs in the firms it funds.

Loans that Greensill Capital took out and can’t repay will now be covered by public funds. Did Cameron know that Greensill was likely to collapse when he was asking for government money?

An investigation by the Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists concluded that Cameron’s activities did “not fall within the criteria that require registration on the register”.

This does not mean he has been cleared. It just means that he did not have to register his lobbying.

Cameron says that there are “important lessons” to be learned to avoid “misinterpretation”.

It’s not about “misinterpretation”.

More than 60 members of Cameron’s administration have taken private sector jobs with some link to their government portfolio within two years of stepping down.

A watchdog monitors the appointments of former ministers and special advisors.

Its published decisions show at least 66 got the green light to accept a paid position in an industry ­connected to their old ­government job.

Millions of ordinary people will see here a corrupt relationship where former politicians, and very rich people and companies, bend governments to their will.


Turning NHS pay to profit

David Cameron pushed for the government to adopt an NHS pay scheme that would ultimately be profitable for Greensill.

The pitch was to pay health workers either daily or weekly, ahead of their usual payday. The company would then claim the money back from the government.

There was no immediate fee, but Greensill planned to make money from the scheme. It was awarded without tender or an open process.

Two senior former employees say the plan was to convert the NHS’s future payments into bonds and sell them internationally—at a profit.

Greensill used the prestige of working with the NHS via the service, and a separate pharmacy scheme signed off by Cameron during his time in office, to demonstrate its credibility with investors.

Cameron initially raised the idea of Greensill offering NHS wage payment services with health secretary Matt Hancock at a “private drink” in October 2019. The Sunday Times reported that the firm’s founder Lex Greensill also attended the drink, along with Bill Crothers.

Crothers is a former head of government procurement who became a Greensill director.

Greensill also met with Dido Harding, then head of NHS Improvement, and Sir Simon Stevens, the chief executive of the NHS.

He later launched a partnership with NHS Shared Business Services, jointly run by Hancock’s department, allowing up to 400,000 NHS workers to be paid daily. The scheme, called Earnd, was taken up by some NHS trusts.

One former Earnd employee told the Financial Times newspaper, “The plan was to use public sector contracts as a loss leader. The service would be rolled out to the private sector, with a fee attached.”

Earnd’s advisory board included Louise Casey, a former government adviser on homelessness, and David Blunkett, ex-Labour education secretary.


‘We all know how it works’

  • David Cameron understood the system shortly before he became prime minister.

“We all know how it works,” he said. “The lunches, the hospitality, the ex-ministers and ex-advisers for hire, helping big business find the right way to get its way.”


  • Like all former prime ministers, Cameron claims cash to run his private office.

Latest figures available for 2018-19 show that Cameron took £110,413 for these costs.

Tony Blair took £115,000, John Major £114,935.


  • ­Matt Hancock, Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson will avoid public questioning of their actions.

Conveniently, all broadcast interviews and press conferences have been suspended due to the death of racist royal prince Philip.


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