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.”
BEIRUT, Lebanon — In a prime-time television interview four years ago, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia dismissed the idea that his kingdom could somehow find an accommodation with its archrival, Iran.
“How do we communicate?” he asked. “The mutual points that we can agree on with this regime are almost nonexistent.”
Now, Prince Mohammed is finding those points as he embarks on a diplomatic effort to defuse tensions between the two regional powers that have underpinned conflicts across the Middle East.
Last month, the chief of Saudi intelligence began secret talks with a senior Iranian security official in Baghdad to discuss several areas of contention, including the war in Yemen and Iranian-backed militias in Iraq, Iraqi and Iranian officials said.
criticized Saudi Arabia’s human rights record during the presidential election campaign and vowed to reassess the American relationship with the kingdom. Once in office, he ordered the release of an intelligence assessment that found Prince Mohammed had likely ordered the killing of the dissident Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi, although he declined to sanction the prince directly.
suspend sales of offensive weapons to Saudi Arabia in an effort to withdraw American support for Saudi Arabia’s catastrophic war in Yemen.
Saudi Arabia appears to have shifted its behavior to match the new tone.
As the new administration came in, Saudi Arabia released a number of high-profile prisoners and ended the four-year blockade it and other Arab countries had imposed on Qatar, another close United States partner that also maintains ties with Iran.
This past week, the Saudi king invited Qatar’s emir to visit Saudi Arabia, a powerful gesture of reconciliation.
Neither Iran nor Saudi Arabia, however, have publicly acknowledged the talks. Saudi officials have even publicly denied them. Their existence was confirmed privately by Iraqi and Iranian officials.
questioning America’s commitment to its defense, have weakened Saudi Arabia’s hand, forcing it to take a less bellicose approach toward Iran.
“America is disengaging from the Middle East, drawing down troops and focusing on Asia, and having a balance of power between Saudi Arabia and Iran will make this exit easier,” said Ali Qholizadeh, a political analyst in Iran. “Iran is seizing this strategic opportunity.”
Saudi Arabia and Iran have long competed for influence across the Middle East, and the kingdom accuses Iran of using proxies to fight wars and weaken Arab states, destabilizing the region. Iran sees Saudi Arabia a key player in efforts by the United States and Israel to dominate the region and destabilize Iran.
The talks in Baghdad, hosted by Iraq’s prime minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, on April 9, began to address some of these issues. Iraqi and Iranian officials said the discussions touched on the activities of Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and the war in Yemen, where a coalition of Arab states led by Saudi Arabia is fighting a war against Iran-backed Houthis.
Sajad Jiyad, a Baghdad-based fellow at the Century Foundation, an independent research group.
Eventually, the two sides could discuss restoring diplomatic relations, which ended in 2016 after Saudi Arabia executed a prominent Shiite cleric and Iranians protesting the execution of stormed two Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran.
Yasmine Farouk, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who studies Saudi Arabia, said she expected the first priority to be reaching some sort of regional security arrangement like the two countries had in the past.
“They would have to do that before they could get to the point of talking about dividing up their influence around the region,” she said.
The mere decision to talk directly with Iran signaled a change in Saudi policy, she said, given that the Saudis had previously refused to discuss Yemen with Iran since they saw Iran’s involvement there as illegitimate.
“Now they are becoming more realist and mature and they feel that talking with the Iranians will be more beneficial than just saying they need to leave Yemen,” she said.
Prince Mohammed adopted a hard line on Iran after his father, King Salman, ascended the Saudi throne in 2015 and delegated tremendous power to his favorite son.
“We are a primary target for the Iranian regime,” Prince Mohammed said in a television interview in 2017, arguing that Iran’s revolutionary ideology made negotiating with its leaders impossible. “We won’t wait for the battle to be in Saudi Arabia. Instead, we’ll work so that the battle is for them in Iran.”
His tone was markedly different this past week. Even though he did not acknowledge the talks with Iran, he described it as “a neighboring country” that Saudi Arabia wanted “to prosper and grow.”
“We have Saudi interests in Iran, and they have Iranian interests in Saudi Arabia, which are to drive prosperity and growth in the region and the entire world,” he said in an interview broadcast Tuesday on Saudi state television.
Ben Hubbard reported from Beirut, Lebanon; Farnaz Fassihi from New York; and Jane Arraf from Amman, Jordan. Falih Hassan contributed reporting from Baghdad.