By George Simms
No one likes to lose a break-up. Nearly five years after pulling off the most outlandishly one-sided divorce settlement since Henry VIII made state-mandated headlessness valid grounds for separation, David Cameron’s suspiciously featureless mug is back on our front pages. He got the house, the kids, and the tent in Saudi Arabia, and we got a border in the Irish Sea and Eton’s finest silly putty in a poorly-kept wig.
A man so famous for apologising that the New York Times’ review of his recent memoir was headlined ‘David Cameron is sorry. Really, really sorry’, Cameron has spectacularly failed to apologise for his role in the Greensill affair. He lobbied on behalf of Greensill, a FinTech company he had shares in, owned by one of his former employees. He used his political might to attend private drinks with the Health Secretary and drop the Chancellor a few texts to lobby for contracts. Admittedly, he obviously wasn’t very good, because the company has now gone bust.
Cameron hasn’t broken any specific rules because they haven’t yet made rules against ex-Prime Ministers secretly lobbying government ministers in search of a quick buck. It was either assumed that within Whitehall no one would ever do this or hoped that no one would ever find out.
If this was Matt Hancock’s only recent sleaze accusation, you’d assume he just wanted a rare chance not to drink alone facing the wall. But alas, in March Hancock declared he had 15% of shares in Topwood, a firm which has secured a £300,000 NHS Wales grant earlier this year. What he didn’t mention was that his sister and brother-in-law owned 60% of shares. His mother owns another set of shares.
Even though he may not have awarded that contract himself, he did put Topwood on the list of potential suppliers for NHS trusts in 2019. This year, he only declared a potential interest in the company, despite it being founded by his blood relatives in 2002. Whilst, as with the Greensill affair, there might not already be a rule which forbids this very specific situation, it’s not exactly cricket, is it?
From the Press Office which brought you such classics as ‘Rishi Sunak is a perfectly normal height, thank you very much’ and ‘no, Boris has never seen that child with floppy blond hair and a ridiculous accent before in his life’, now comes ‘we are the party of law and order’. The Greensill affair is just a fresh curl onto the whopping pile of Tory sleaze currently sat steaming on the British public’s doorstep.
It’s even brought Keir Starmer out from under his rock. Seizing his rare opportunity in daylight to employ the Labour leader trope of repeating a word three times, he accused the Tories of ‘sleaze, sleaze, sleaze’. Thanks for the scathing outburst Keir. That’s real opposition.
But really, what more can we expect from a party run by Boris Johnson? He’s had four affairs that have made it into the public sphere. To him, loyalty isn’t acting honestly and faithfully; it’s keeping quiet about whatever he’s done. Whilst recently quizzed on his affair with Jennifer Arcuri; he announced he had acted with ‘honesty and integrity’.
This is a four-year, extra-marital affair in which Boris gave at least £25,000 to Arcuri’s company in his role as London Mayor. He took her on three trade mission trips she had no right to be on. Arcuri mentioned foreplay often included reading Macbeth. I wonder which bit about stopping at nothing in a blind pursuit of power turned Boris on?
The Conservative Party is sleazy to the core. Most of its ministers have either been bred into privilege or lulled into a false sense of privilege to feel part of the gang (evening, Mr Williamson). Recently sacked minister Johnny Mercer claimed, ‘almost nobody tells the truth’, within this Conservative government.
It’s got to the point that no one is surprised. The shock at Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick bumping billionaire porn baron and Tory donor Richard Desmond up lists to get him a tax break seems like an age ago. The Environment Secretary has been implementing policies that directly help the family farm he has shares in. I’ve hardly even seen Dominic Cummings’ mentioned regarding Tory sleaze of late. Journalists have so much sleaze to write about that him going for a drive to test his eyesight somewhere he shouldn’t have been in the first place has to be ignored.
This is what British politics has become. A key part of privilege has always been believing certain rules don’t apply to you. Well, now, thanks to the Conservative government, they don’t. Electing philanderous sociopaths like Johnson has brought his moral compass to the forefront of the party. Ronald Reagan had trickle-down economics. Boris has trickle-down sleaze, and it’s trickling ever further down the government’s trouser leg.
Image: Jordhan Madec via Unsplash