Former U.K. Prime Minister Faces Parliament in Lobbying Scandal

LONDON — Not many former British prime ministers adapt easily to life after 10 Downing Street or gain the respect afforded to some ex-leaders around the world.

But few have fallen as far and as fast as David Cameron, who on Thursday made his first public appearance since a lobbying scandal cast a harsh light on his character and judgment, as well as the shifting morals of British public life.

Mr. Cameron’s embarrassment is particularly surprising because more than a decade ago and before becoming prime minister, he himself had warned that a crisis over lobbying was the “next big scandal waiting to happen” following an outcry over lawmakers’ expenses.

“We all know how it works,” Mr. Cameron said in a speech in 2010. “The lunches, the hospitality, the quiet word in your ear, the ex-ministers and ex-advisers for hire, helping big business find the right way to get its way.”

as did Greensill Capital, whose financial difficulties endangered thousands of jobs, prompting a series of inquiries.

During Thursday’s hearing, Mr. Cameron kept his cool and rejected as “absurd” reports that he stood to make tens of millions of dollars from options on Greensill shares. Refusing to give details, he nonetheless conceded that he had a “serious economic interest” in its success, was paid “generously” and earned more than his previous salary as prime minister. Nor did he deny using the company’s private jet to fly to his vacation home in Cornwall.

The release of messages earlier this week revealed the extent to which the ex-prime minister, who resigned in 2016, was willing to ingratiate himself with former staff and colleagues — including one with whom he had fallen out spectacularly a few years earlier.

“I know you are manically busy — and doing a great job,” wrote Mr. Cameron to Michael Gove, a senior cabinet minister, in one text stressing that he was “on this number and v free.”

and wrote: “As for Michael, one quality shone through: disloyalty.”

In the messages sent last year, Mr. Cameron also told the chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, he was “doing a great job” — and made sure that senior officials knew about his contacts with Mr. Sunak.

“See you with Rishi’s for an elbow bump or foot tap. Love Dc,” Mr. Cameron signed off one message to Tom Scholar, the most senior civil servant at the Treasury.

in the right-leaning Daily Telegraph. She seemed to be referring to allegations Prime Minister Boris Johnson broke electoral rules in the underhanded way he was said to have financed a pricey refurbishment of his apartment.

Mr. Cameron resigned after taking the fatal gamble that he could persuade Britons to vote against Brexit in the 2016 referendum, leaving himself unexpectedly out of a job.

American intelligence agencies say ordered the killing. In a statement made in April, Mr. Cameron insisted that he took the opportunity to raise human rights issues.

On Thursday, Mr. Cameron explained his barrage of texts as a consequence of the urgency of the situation but conceded that, with hindsight, he should have made his approaches by formal letters or emails. He believed Greensill was offering good ideas to the government, Mr. Cameron said, denying that his lobbying was motivated by his financial interest.

Greensill pitched itself as an intermediary between the government and payees, offering to accelerate payments to businesses and individuals. In the case of individuals, Mr. Cameron defended the practice as a sort of populist alternative for some people to usurious payday-lending schemes. But the bulk of the lending was aimed at companies doing business with the government, and critics always questioned the wisdom of using an outside finance firm rather than simply speeding up government payments.

Professor Bale said that it was hard to think of any similarly overt lobbying of ministers from a former prime minister, not even Tony Blair, who was much criticized for his consultancy work.

“It is illustrative of a decline in standards because it used to be the case that this kind of thing ‘wasn’t done’ — and now it is,” Professor Bale said. The silver lining, he added, was that “the embarrassment caused to David Cameron might put some of his successors off.”

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Showing Little Contrition, David Cameron Faces U.K. Parliament in Lobbying Scandal

LONDON — Not many former British prime ministers adapt easily to life after 10 Downing Street or gain the respect afforded to some ex-leaders around the world.

But few have fallen as far and as fast as David Cameron, who on Thursday made his first public appearance since a lobbying scandal cast a harsh light on his character and judgment, as well as the shifting morals of British public life.

Mr. Cameron’s embarrassment is particularly surprising because more than a decade ago and before becoming prime minister, he himself had warned that a crisis over lobbying was the “next big scandal waiting to happen” following an outcry over lawmakers’ expenses.

“We all know how it works,” Mr. Cameron said in a speech in 2010. “The lunches, the hospitality, the quiet word in your ear, the ex-ministers and ex-advisers for hire, helping big business find the right way to get its way.”

as did Greensill Capital, whose financial difficulties endangered thousands of jobs, prompting a series of inquiries.

During Thursday’s hearing, Mr. Cameron kept his cool and rejected as “absurd” reports that he stood to make tens of millions of dollars from options on Greensill shares. Refusing to give details he nonetheless conceded that he had a “serious economic interest” in its success, was paid “generously” and earned more than his previous salary as prime minister. Nor did he deny using the company’s private jet to fly to his vacation home in Cornwall.

The release of messages earlier this week revealed the extent to which the ex-prime minister, who resigned in 2016, was willing to ingratiate himself with former staff and colleagues — including one with whom he had fallen out spectacularly a few years earlier.

“I know you are manically busy — and doing a great job,” wrote Mr. Cameron to Michael Gove, a senior cabinet minister in one text stressing that he was “on this number and v free.”

and wrote: “As for Michael, one quality shone through: disloyalty.”

In the messages sent last year, Mr. Cameron also told the chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, he was “doing a great job” — and made sure that senior officials knew about his contacts with Mr. Sunak.

“See you with Rishi’s for an elbow bump or foot tap. Love Dc,” Mr. Cameron signed off one message to Tom Scholar, the most senior civil servant at the Treasury.

in the right-leaning Daily Telegraph. She seemed to be referring to allegations Prime Minister Boris Johnson broke electoral rules in the underhanded way he was said to have financed a pricey refurbishment of his apartment.

Mr. Cameron resigned after taking the fatal gamble that he could persuade Britons to vote against Brexit in the 2016 referendum, leaving himself unexpectedly out of a job.

American intelligence agencies say ordered the killing. In a statement made in April Mr. Cameron insisted that he took the opportunity to raise human rights issues.

On Thursday, Mr. Cameron explained his barrage of texts as a consequence of the urgency of the situation but conceded that, with hindsight, he should have made his approaches by formal letters or emails. He believed Greensill was offering good ideas to the government, Mr. Cameron said, denying that his lobbying was motivated his by financial interest.

Greensill pitched itself as an intermediary between the government and payees, offering to accelerate payments to businesses and individuals. In the case of individuals, Mr. Cameron defended the practice as a sort of populist alternative for some people to usurious payday-lending schemes. But the bulk of the lending was aimed at companies doing business with the government, and critics always questioned the wisdom of using an outside finance firm rather than simply speeding up government payments.

Professor Bale said that it was hard to think of any similarly overt lobbying of ministers from a former prime minister, not even Tony Blair, who was much criticized for his consultancy work.

“It is illustrative of a decline in standards because it used to be the case that this kind of thing ‘wasn’t done’ — and now it is,” Professor Bale said. The silver lining, he added, was that “the embarrassment caused to David Cameron might put some of his successors off.”

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Greensill’s Collapse Inquiry and David Cameron’s Lobbying

He said he first became concerned about his company’s financial health in December, when a German regulatory agency said a bank that Greensill Capital had acquired needed to reduce its exposure to one customer.

The request “was going to be impossible for us to comply with,” Mr. Greensill said.

Greensill’s business model has raised concerns and even accusations of fraud. Its main offering was supply chain finance, in which a middleman advances payments to suppliers and then the money is repaid by the buyer. It’s a long-established kind of financing, usually provided by banks, but Greensill added a twist. It packaged the invoices and other receivables by the suppliers into assets that were then sold to investors through funds. The company also provided financing to companies based on “future receivables,” which were based on transactions that hadn’t yet happened.

In Tuesday’s hearing, held virtually, Mr. Greensill strongly defended the business model.

“Every asset we ever sold was correctly described,” he said, adding that all investors would have had complete information about what they were buying.

But he made a small admission to failures he had made. He told lawmakers that one of his company’s innovations was taking information directly from company accounts to make fast lending decisions. This “absolutely is the future but the way that I did it definitely had flaws,” he said without specifying what they were.

In March, as the insurance coverage came to an end, Credit Suisse shut down $10 billion worth of supply chain finance funds it sold that were put together by Greensill. The Swiss bank has returned just under half the amount to investors but is still exposed to billions of dollars in potential losses.

“I bear complete responsibility for the collapse of Greensill Capital,” Mr. Greensill said, adding that he was “desperately saddened” that more than 1,000 of his employees had lost their jobs. But he added: “It’s deeply regrettable we were let down by our leading insurer, whose actions assured Greensill’s collapse.”

The Financial Conduct Authority, Britain’s chief financial regulator, said in a letter to the committee that it was “formally investigating” Greensill because some of the allegations about its failure are “potentially criminal in nature.” The authority is also working with regulators in Germany, Australia and Switzerland, Nikhil Rathi, the regulator’s chief executive, wrote.

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Of Brexit and Boris: What’s Driving the Call for Scottish Independence

The millions of votes counted across Scotland on Saturday could be among the most consequential in recent times, and not because of their impact on things like health, education and fisheries. The greatest issue facing the country, and the one that was really at stake, was nowhere to be found on the ballot, and that is the future of its 314-year-old union with England.

While the last votes were still being counted on Saturday in the parliamentary elections, it appeared virtually certain that the pro-independence Scottish National Party would fall short of the majority it had hoped would create an irresistible momentum for a new referendum on breaking away from the United Kingdom. But it will retain power in Edinburgh, probably with the support of the Scottish Greens, guaranteeing that the issue will continue to dominate Scottish politics, as it has in recent years.

A lot. A second independence plebiscite, following one in 2014, could lead to the fracturing of the United Kingdom. Were Scotland to become independent, Britain would lose eight percent of its population, a third of its landmass and significant amounts of international prestige.

Some say the loss of Scotland would be the biggest blow to a British prime minister since Lord North lost the colonies in America in the 18th century. Understandably, the current prime minister, Boris Johnson, is no fan of the idea.

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister. Her party has led the Scottish government for 14 years and she has earned praise for her steady handling of the coronavirus pandemic, particularly compared with the early performance of Mr. Johnson.

There are smaller parties that want another vote, too, like the Greens, who are close to the S.N.P. Another pro-independence party, Alba, is led by Alex Salmond, who is not an ally of Ms. Sturgeon — at least not any more. A former first minister himself, Mr. Salmond was once Ms. Sturgeon’s mentor, but the two have recently been embroiled in a bitter feud, and his election campaign fell flat.

Re-established in 1999, Scotland’s Parliament was designed to quiet calls for Scottish independence, but it hasn’t worked out like that. The pro-independence S.N.P. has become the dominant force and, in 2011, won a rare overall majority in a Parliament where the voting system is designed to avoid any one party’s domination. After that result, the Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron reluctantly agreed to the 2014 independence referendum.

Ms. Sturgeon had been hoping that a thumping victory for the pro-independence parties in these elections would give her the moral authority to demand another plebiscite. They fell short, but Ms. Sturgeon will keep up pressure for a referendum claiming that, combined with the vote for the Greens, she has a mandate.

They show a divided Scotland, split down the middle over independence. That is in line with the findings of opinion polls that last year showed a majority favoring independence only to fall back slightly in recent months. The Scottish Conservatives, the opposition Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats all oppose independence.

So dominant is the issue that some anti-independence voters seem to have switched allegiance from their normal parties to support the one most likely to defeat the S.N.P. in their area. Ms. Sturgeon is on course to remain first minister, which is an impressive achievement, but with her path to an overall majority likely cut off, her moral case for a second referendum has been weakened.

For a second independence referendum to be legal it would almost certainly need the agreement of London, and Mr. Johnson has repeatedly said no. That’s a big problem for Ms. Sturgeon, because she wants the result of any second referendum to be accepted internationally and for Scotland to be allowed to return to the European Union.

Far from it. Even if she has to rely on the Greens, Ms. Sturgeon is likely to have enough votes to push legislation for “indyref2” through the Scottish Parliament and then challenge Mr. Johnson or his allies to stop it in court.

That could cause a constitutional crisis. After all, Scotland’s union with England in 1707 was voluntary, making it hard for London to say no forever to another referendum. And Ms. Sturgeon may calculate that support for independence will only grow if Scots see the popular will being blocked by a government in England.

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Scotland Election Results Complicate Hopes for Independence Referendum

LONDON — Hopes for a swift path to independence in Scotland were dampened on Saturday, as early election results showed the dominant Scottish nationalist party falling just short of a majority in the country’s parliament.

The results, if confirmed after the votes are fully counted by Saturday evening, would deprive the Scottish National Party of a symbolic victory in a closely-fought election. That, in turn, is likely to stiffen the determination of Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain to deny Scottish voters the chance to hold a second referendum on independence.

Yet pro-independence parties were on track to stay in overall control, which will keep the flame of Scottish nationalism alive and ensure that the threat of Scotland’s breaking away will continue to bedevil the United Kingdom.

The number of seats won by the Scottish National Party in the election, held on Thursday, is in some ways less important than the political winds, which are still blowing in favor of the separatists. By allying with the pro-independence Scottish Greens, the Scottish nationalists could tighten their control over the regional Parliament.

a bitter feud with her predecessor, Alex Salmond, over a botched internal investigation of sexual misconduct charges against him. She was accused of deceiving lawmakers, breaking rules and even conspiring against Mr. Salmond, a former close ally.

Ms. Sturgeon was cleared of breaching the rules and misleading Parliament just as the campaign got underway, but the dispute dented her image. Mr. Salmond launched a breakaway party, Alba, which did not appear on track to win any seats but served as a reminder of the internecine split.

“This year has been quite difficult for the S.N.P. and for Nicola Sturgeon personally,” Professor McEwen said. Also, she added, “The broad shoulders of the U.K. have helped see us through the pandemic.”

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U.K. Vote Is Likely to Back Boris Johnson, and an Independent Scotland

LONDON — For an ordinary politician, heading into midterm elections on an unsavory plume of scandal over cellphone contacts with billionaires and a suspiciously funded apartment makeover might seem like the recipe for a thumping. But Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain is not an ordinary politician.

As voters in the country go to the polls on Thursday — with regional and local elections that have been swollen by races postponed from last year because of the pandemic — Mr. Johnson’s Conservative Party stands to make gains against a Labour Party that has struggled to make the ethical accusations against him stick.

Far from humbling a wayward prime minister, the elections could extend a realignment in British politics that began in 2019 when the Conservative Party won a landslide general election victory. That would put the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, on the back foot and ratify Mr. Johnson’s status as a kind of political unicorn.

“No politician in the democratic West can escape the consequences of political gravity forever, but Boris Johnson has shown a greater capacity to do it than most,” said Tony Travers, a professor of politics at the London School of Economics. “People see his behavior as evidence of his authenticity.”

defeated in 2014.

emphatically behind a new campaign for Scottish independence.

In the English elections, the big prize is Hartlepool, a struggling northern port city and Labour bastion where a new poll suggests that the Conservatives could win a bellwether seat in a parliamentary by-election. The Tories could make further inroads in other Labour cities and towns in the industrial Midlands and North, where they picked off dozens of seats in 2019, running on Mr. Johnson’s promise to “Get Brexit Done.”

The prime minister did get Brexit done, as of last January. Yet while the split with the European Union brought predicted chaos in shipments of British seafood and higher customs fees on European goods, its effects have been eclipsed by the pandemic — a twist that ended up working to the government’s benefit.

Although the pandemic began as a negative story for Mr. Johnson, with a dilatory response to the first wave of infections that left Britain with the highest death toll in Europe, it turned around with the nation’s rapid rollout of vaccines.

who picked up the initial bill for the upgrade of his apartment and why he was texting the billionaire James Dyson about the tax status of his employees, when the two were discussing a plan for Mr. Dyson’s company to manufacture ventilators.

But there is little evidence that voters are particularly surprised or concerned that Mr. Johnson does not play by the rules. As political commentators have taken to saying this week, the prime minister’s behavior is “priced in.”

The same is not true of Scottish independence. Analysts say Mr. Johnson’s government is not prepared for the wall of pressure it will face if the Scottish National Party wins a majority. The last time the party achieved that, in 2011, Britain’s then-prime minister, David Cameron, yielded to demands for a referendum. In 2014, Scots voted against leaving Britain by 55 percent to 44 percent.

Polls now put the split at roughly 50-50, after a stretch in which the pro-independence vote was solidly above 50 percent. Analysts attribute the slight softening of support to both the vaccine rollout, which showed the merits of staying in the union, as well as an ugly political dispute within Scottish nationalist ranks.

Mr. Johnson holds a trump card of sorts. To be legally binding, an independence referendum would almost certainly have to gain the assent of the British government, so the prime minister can simply say no and hope the problem goes away. But that strategy can work for only so long before becoming untenable.

“I don’t see any way in the world that Boris Johnson turns around the day after the election and says, ‘OK, you can have a referendum,’” said Nicola McEwen, a professor of politics at the University of Edinburgh.

And yet the calls could only grow. “If they manage to peel off a single-party majority,” she said, “it does put pressure on the U.K. to answer the question, ‘If a democratic vote isn’t a mandate for independence, then what is?’”

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Marriage Records in England and Wales Will Now Include Mothers’ Names

LONDON — Marriage certificates in England and Wales have traditionally left space for the names and professions of just one parent: the fathers of the couple tying the knot.

That changed on Tuesday, with couples now allowed to add mothers’ names to their official marriage record. The change corrects “a historic anomaly” and is part of a larger overhaul of how marriages are registered in the two nations, the British government said. Unions will also now be recorded in a single electronic registry instead of in registry books.

The changes are the biggest to the registration system since the Marriage Act came into effect in 1837, the Home Office said, and they have been in the works for several years. In 2014, David Cameron, then the prime minister, said the system did not reflect “modern Britain” and pledged to make modifications.

But the final stages of legislation to include both parents did not come before Parliament until last month, spurred by a larger bill that passed in 2019. The earlier bill included the changeover to an electronic marriage registry and the extension of the right to civil partnerships to all couples.

witnesses to their marriage to get around the requirements and make sure that they were included on the certificates.

Caroline Criado Perez, a British author and women’s rights activist, said she had refused to get married until the certificates included mothers. “It sat so wrong with me to willingly take part in the erasure of women,” she wrote on Twitter. Others criticized the overhaul as a small and largely meaningless step compared with the other barriers that women face.

reduced the application fee for those looking to legally change their gender in England and Wales from 140 pounds, or about $195, to £5. Activists for L.G.B.T.Q. rights had criticized the cost as a barrier for transgender people looking to officially recognize their gender identity on a certificate.

Almost 6,000 such certificates were granted from 2005 to 2020, though an estimated 200,000 to 500,000 transgender people live in Britain, the Government Equalities Office said, adding that it was also working “at speed” to move the application process online.

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‘It’s a Paper Tiger.’ Britain’s Lobby Laws Under Fire as Johnson Fights ‘Sleaze’ Label

LONDON — Still riding high from Britain’s successful vaccine rollout and a politically shrewd campaign to kill off a proposed European soccer super league, Prime Minister Boris Johnson now confronts thorny questions about how he and other senior officials have dealt with efforts to lobby the government.

For a politician who gleefully defies convention and rarely plays by the rules, it amounts to a return to normality.

The latest questions involve text messages that Mr. Johnson traded with a wealthy British businessman, James Dyson, over his plan to manufacture ventilators in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. The story took a juicy turn on Friday after British papers reported that the messages were leaked by Mr. Johnson’s disgruntled former chief adviser, Dominic Cummings.

On Friday, Mr. Cummings fired back, writing on his personal blog that he did not have the text messages that were leaked, though he did have copies of other texts between Mr. Johnson and Mr. Dyson. He also claimed that Downing Street falsely accused him of leaking details about a decision to impose a lockdown last fall.

Greensill Capital, that was seeking loans from the British government.

The government rebuffed the requests, but Mr. Cameron’s level of access — and the fact that he did not break any laws — alarmed critics, who said it revealed the inadequacy of the rules governing lobbying by former officials. The same is true, they said, of the code of conduct for the prime minister and his cabinet members.

“It’s a paper tiger system,” said Jill Rutter, a former civil servant who is now a senior research fellow at the U.K. in a Changing Europe, a think tank based in London. “If anyone wants to push it, it falls over in a heap.”

The guidelines on civil servants, she said, needed to be updated as the government has recruited more people with business skills, who tend to rotate in an out of government jobs. The Ministerial Code, which sets out standards of conduct, is a toothless document that says nothing about lobbying, she said, and can be rewritten or discarded by the prime minister.

Some analysts drew a distinction between the Greensill affair and Mr. Johnson’s texts with Mr. Dyson. The government had pressed his company, which is based in Singapore and is known for its high-end vacuums, to produce ventilators to avert a shortfall in hospitals overrun with Covid patients. Mr. Dyson agreed, at some cost to the company, but wanted to make sure that employees who moved to Britain to carry out the job would not be penalized by the tax laws.

“Dyson was reasonable in asking that his team not be disadvantaged by doing that in the emergency,” said Bronwen Maddox, director of the Institute for Government, a think tank in London. “What is questionable is the ease of access to the P.M. it revealed, and how he has declined to follow the normal practice of changing phones in office.”

Holding on to his cellphone — and using it to send WhatsApp messages to a pro-Brexit businessman — is hardly the only way Mr. Johnson has flouted convention. After his election victory in 2019, he and his girlfriend, Carrie Symonds, vacationed on the chic Caribbean island of Mustique. Mr. Johnson claimed another wealthy businessman picked up the tab of £15,000 ($20,785), which the businessman denied.

The opposition Labour Party has seized on the allegations of cronyism to paint a portrait of a Conservative government awash in corruption. The Labour leader, Keir Starmer, hammered Mr. Johnson in Parliament for what his party considers a pattern of dubious behavior, including handing out lucrative contracts for protective medical equipment to well-connected firms.

“Sleaze, sleaze, sleaze,” Mr. Starmer thundered, “and it’s all on his watch.”

How much these scandals will hurt Mr. Johnson is another question. By now, analysts said, his peccadilloes are so well established that little will change public views of him. The Conservative Party has widened its lead over Labour in recent polls, as the government has reaped credit for the vaccine rollout. And Mr. Johnson’s opposition to the soccer Super League burnished his populist credentials.

But Professor Bale said that as the disclosures accumulate, they can have a “snowball effect.” Prime Minister John Major, Mr. Johnson’s 1990s forebear, enjoyed a reputation as an honest politician. A string of scandals involving members of his government and the Conservative Party eventually ravaged that reputation.

The changing political environment may have played a role in Downing Street’s decision to abandon a plan to hold White House-style televised briefings. Mr. Johnson’s aides had billed the briefings as proof of the government’s transparency and spent £2.6 million ($3.5 million) to build a wood-paneled briefing room.

But earlier this week, the sessions were quietly shelved. Allegra Stratton, the press secretary hired to go before the cameras, was reassigned to be the spokeswoman for the United Nations’ climate change conference, which Britain is hosting in Glasgow in November. Officials said Mr. Johnson would still use the briefing room for his own encounters with the press.

If his most recent news conference is any indication, those may become scratchier. On Monday, a reporter asked Mr. Johnson whether he had acted with “honesty and integrity” in his relationship with Jennifer Arcuri, an American woman who claims to have had an affair with Mr. Johnson when he was mayor of London.

“Yes,” he replied tersely.

Alastair Campbell, who served as press secretary to Prime Minister Tony Blair, said the political dynamic had changed since Mr. Johnson’s aides conceived the idea of televised briefings last fall. Then, during the depths of the pandemic, press criticism of the government was restrained by the sense of national crisis.

“Its arrival has coincided with a time when, finally, a few journalists are starting to show a little more robustness,” Mr. Campbell said. “The Cameron-Greensill story has unleashed untapped concern at the nature of the governing party.”

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