The perfect case study to illustrate the ‘revolving door’ concept keeps offering up fresh examples of outrageous yet apparently permitted conduct. It has now been revealed that Bill Crothers, a top civil servant, joined Greensill as an adviser while still working as the government’s chief procurement officer. This extraordinary situation was “agreed by the Cabinet Office under its internal conflicts-of-interest policy”, according to Eric Pickles, the chair of the ‘lobbying watchdog’ ACOBA who has now asked for guidance on this process. Adding fuel to the fire, Crothers has said his advisory role was “not seen as contentious” and “not uncommon”.
The suggestion that there are many other similar instances to be found is an attempt to normalise such activity but risks instead exposing the extent of the problem. The Greensill scandal has already seen ‘Dishy Rishi’ Sunak become ‘Fishy Rishi’. Can Labour help to ensure the story makes an impact, both in terms of actual reform and electorally? The party is using its opposition day to force a vote this afternoon on setting up a committee of MPs to investigate the lobbying of government. Arguing that Boris Johnson’s review has “all the hallmarks of a cover-up”, this is a bid to stop the government from “marking its own homework”.
Under Labour’s proposal, Rishi Sunak, Matt Hancock and David Cameron would come before parliament to give evidence, and the government would make public all communications relating to Greensill between top ministers, special advisers and senior staff. “Any Conservative who wants to stop the cronyism rampant in their party and in government must vote with Labour this week to uncover once and for all the truth behind this scandal,” Rachel Reeves said. The Conservatives are, of course, expected to vote down the motion today. Labour insiders reckon the multiple stories of Tory sleaze are cutting through to voters, however.
“In the 1990s, Labour prospered by highlighting how the Tories were tired, sleazy and a menace to the public realm. All the ingredients are there to make this case again, as the David Cameron lobbying scandal shows,” writes Andrew Harrop on LabourList today. The Fabians general secretary has launched a ‘Keir’s next year’ survey asking Labour members and supporters to submit ideas. If any of those ideas are ‘sack your team’, Starmer won’t be happy. The Labour leader last night railed to the frontbench team against “cowards who attack my staff”, following weeks of off-the-record briefings critical of his aides. Those around the leadership are furious about the “destabilising” reports – particularly ahead of elections that look incredibly tough for Labour. Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.