David Cameron lobbying scandal: His fall from grace is a symptom of a political culture reeking of nepotism and corruption – Ayesha Hazarika

“Put your hands up if you haven’t been contacted by David Cameron” is what I was willing Keir Starmer to yell across the despatch box during PMQs last Wednesday.

David Cameron reached the political top at a young age,  so to see him reduced to a rather desperate lobbyist is not just grubby, but tragic, says Ayesha Hazarika (Picture: Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images)
David Cameron reached the political top at a young age, so to see him reduced to a rather desperate lobbyist is not just grubby, but tragic, says Ayesha Hazarika (Picture: Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images)

Mainly because it’s a classic trick and provides great visuals, as ministers squirm while panic-checking what colleagues are doing.

This lobbying scandal is growing by the day and is now far bigger than just Cameron. But let’s start with him. I actually think it’s a great shame for him on a personal level.

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To reach the top at such a young age shows a man with considerable talent and ability. I profoundly disagreed with him and worked for Ed Miliband who was then leader of the opposition, but Cameron was a formidable opponent. He got it wrong on Brexit but won two referendums and became the first Tory leader to win a majority since 1992.

So, to see him go from Prime Minister, Conservative moderniser and international statesman to a rather desperate lobbyist is not just grubby, it’s rather tragic.

And any junior public affairs executive take note – he’s clearly very enthusiastic and good at his job.

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So why was he doing this? It’s not like he needs the money. He and his family are already incredibly wealthy and inhabit gilded circles of privilege and connections. Unlike our present Prime Minister, he doesn’t have ex-wives and vast child maintenance to cover. How many shepherd’s huts does a millionaire need?

I suspect it wasn’t even about the money. It was more likely to have been motivated by boredom and a crushing lack of purpose. Bear with while I dust off the nano-sized violin, but it’s hard to quantify the sense of loss Prime Ministers feel when they leave office, especially when they are still relatively young. I am of course referring to men who are always just about to be in their prime, even though they are no longer Prime Minister.

I have been lucky enough to interview Tony Blair, David Cameron and Gordon Brown and it’s clear these are all bright, experienced, capable men who feel, with justification, that they still have more to give and that they still matter.

I get that. It’s a bit like how us women feel when we hit the menopause.

But imagine if all that undeniable top-flight Prime Ministerial experience that Cameron had acquired along with those A-list contacts and his energy and ability could have been put to good and solving some of the pressing issues of the day rather than just making another rich man even richer using British taxpayers’ money?

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The worst kind of lobbying is often like this. Unprofessional, over-familiar and macho but in a kind of political partridge way. Lots of “timmy top team” chaps boasting about how they got a junior minister “ratted and took them for karaoke”.

But this is not just about David Cameron’s fall from grace. It’s about how power and influence works, especially under the current government, and how it’s being abused. From Robert Jenrick and the housing developer to the Prime Minister’s mistress getting public money when he was Mayor of London to the ever-increasing list of donors, family members, friends and political supporters snapping up juicy government contracts and big public appointments.

It’s about who our ruling classes really are. It’s genuinely extraordinary to contrast how this pandemic has seen so many ordinary citizens give up their time for free to help their community while so many of the “great and good” have filled their boots and creamed the fat off a national tragedy.

Cameron has disgraced himself, but let’s not make him the convenient fall guy for a political culture which reeks of nepotism and corruption. Forget the smell test. Pass me the gas mask.

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