Friends in High Places: Is the Greensill Inquiry Rigged from the Start?

HandshakeIf you are about to be investigated for an alleged deep-rooted lobbying scandal, you might as well get a friendly face on board to run the inquiry.

You can’t fault Boris Johnson’s logic, although the realities of getting a former Tory member to run a supposedly independent investigation don’t really aid his bid to improve the integrity of his party.

Nigel Boardman, who once stood in a local council election as a Conservative back in 1986, has been appointed by the Prime Minister to run the investigation into how a select number of individuals were able to lobby directly with senior parliamentary officials.

Boris appointed Boardman back in April, however now that his past has been revealed there have been calls for him to be dropped from the investigation. He is a listed adviser to the law firm Slaughter and May, who have been awarded £7 million in government contracts in the past year, and is an executive to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Boardman’s father was made a lord after serving as Conservative party treasurer during Margaret Thatcher’s term in office.

In the wake of the Matt Hancock affair, pun intended, this is not a good look for those at 10 Downing Street.

What is the Greensill Inquiry All About?

In theory, anybody can lobby the government – which is essentially asking ministers to consider regulatory reform on a specific matter.

To lobby the government, you can send them emails and social media messages, try to make phone contact with their assistant or, in the rarest of cases, even try to set up a face-to-face meeting.

The Greensill inquiry will look into the ease with which Lex Greensill, the owner of a private capital firm bearing his name, was able to lobby ministers for conditions that would benefit his operation.

The company specialised in supply chain finance and were on the payroll of the NHS, however they collapsed in March due to, ahem, financial issues.

The question is how were Greensill and his aides able to lobby government officials with such ease despite being a private, commercial operation?

Who Is Embroiled in the Greensill Scandal?

One of the most high profile figures attached to the scandal is David Cameron, who was the prime minister at the time that Greensill began applying for – and winning – governmental contracts.

In a not-exactly-surprising plot twist, when Cameron left 10 Downing Street he was later employed by Greensill as an adviser – and it was he who sent the infamous text messages to the chancellor, Rishi Sunak.

And so Sunak is involved, although it should be said he is not accused of any impropriety.

Matt Hancock, him again, met Greensill and Cameron for a drink in 2019, and that was probably not just to discuss the weather or the state of the Premier League title race.

Two unnamed Treasury ministers are said to have received phone calls from Cameron, and they are likely to be asked to give evidence after it was alleged the former PM tried to secure the largest possible government loan as part of the Covid recovery finance scheme.

However, Greensill Capital was allowed to offer their clients government-backed loans of up to £50 million.

Oh, and then there’s Bill Crothers. The name might not be familiar, but he worked as an adviser to Greensill from 2015 – at the same time as being employed in the civil service. And there’s nothing dodgy about that….

Why Does the Greensill Affair Even Matter?

It’s a fair question, given that slightly sinister dealings like these have been going on in UK politics for decades – with all of the ruling parties, at one time or another, culpable.

But there is something slippery about David Cameron, and his continued presence in and around Downing Street even after his political career has ended leaves a bitter taste.

And why does he have Rishi Sunak’s private mobile number? It all seems a bit shoddy.

There are concerns dating back years as to why Greensill was able to enjoy such privileged access to ministers, how he was able to secure big contracts and how his company in the finance sector was able to collapse for reasons linked to being unable to manage their finances appropriately.

Also, why has the government been using supply-chain finance, like that offered by Greensill, when it doesn’t have cashflow issues – even in the midst of the pandemic?

Should we be concerned, once more, as to the government’s handling of its private affairs?