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'Can I ask a favour?': David Cameron's Greensill lobbying texts revealed

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·3-min read
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David Cameron speaking during the Cheltenham Literature Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse.
Former prime minsiter David Cameron has been at the epicentre of a lobbying scandal. Photo: PA

David Cameron sent frequent texts and emails, and conducted phone calls with multiple government ministers and senior civil servants, while helping Greensill Capital apply for emergency funding, it was revealed as the UK's financial regulator launched a formal investigation into the supply-chain finance firm.

The former prime minister has been embroiled in the lobbying scandal sparked by the fallout from the demise of Greensill Capital, which is arguably one of the biggest political crises in a decade.

Texts and emails were published as part of the Treasury Committee investigation into the matter on Tuesday ahead of the questioning of Greensill Capital chief Lex Greensill.

Greensill was a finance company once worth about $30bn (£26bn) that went bust in March, putting 440 jobs at risk. Its demise has caused red faces for the investors who back it, banks that worked with it, and sparked a political crisis in Britain.  

After his term as prime minister finished, Cameron was employed by Greensill and lobbied on its behalf. Cameron had a commercial interest and potentially stood to make millions if the business went public. According to reports by the Sunday Times, he could have made as much as £60m.

Read more: The Greensill scandal: How finance firm's collapse rocked Westminster

After a raft of questions it was revealed that Cameron signed off a note to chief civil servant at the Treasury, Sir Tom Scholar "love Dc." 

He also later sent a text saying: “See you with Rishi’s for an elbow bump or foot tap,” indicating a level of familiarity. 

Cameron also introduced Lex Greensill to James Benford, private secretary to the Bank of England’s outgoing governor Mark Carney, sending repeated emails and texts about Greensill's liaison with the bank to other government officials. 

As Greensill's application passed through the official channels, messages from Cameron got more urgent, as it became clear the firm might be declined or held. 

In a series of messages to Scholar over the course of two weeks in March, he wrote: "Unlike most of the problems we are facing right now, this one has solution...."

He then warned about Sky News' potential knowledge of the deal, saying he had asked them to hold off on writing about it due to the importance. 

"Call any time — on this number," he said in one text to Scholar at the end of March. 

Read more: Why are investors worried about inflation?

A day later he urged Scholar to "do anything you can to expedite this and not let us get stuck in the pending tray!"

When the application was declined Cameron said he was "genuinely baffled," after which he texted chancellor Rishi Sunak for a "very quick word" about the decision as well as emailing and texting veteran special adviser Sheridan Westlake a similar note about a "looming problem."

In the following weeks texts and emails to Sunak, Cunliffe and economic secretary to the Treasury, John Glen became ever more frantic, outlining plans, bullet points and funding limits. 

Cameron has denied breaking any code of conduct or rules surrounding lobbying. He had previously characterised lobbying as "the next big political scandal" during his time in office.

Watch: What are SPACs?