Fri. Jun 18th, 2021

There is sleaze and corruption, and then there’s British-style sleaze and corruption, euphemistically known as “influence-peddling” but with many more murky shades than the term might suggest. And it runs deep, from the PM downwards–ministers, MPs, civil servants.

Currently, both the incumbent prime minister Boris Johnson and his once-removed predecessor David Cameron are struggling to clear their names in two separate scandals that have engulfed the ruling Tory party which in the 1980s and 1990s was dubbed the “party of sleaze” after becoming embroiled in a series of financial and sex scandals.

Johnson, never really regarded as a great stickler for political or personal moral ethics, is accused of misusing party donations to refurbish his Downing Street flat. He hatched a “secret” and potentially illegal plan to cover the £200,000 cost of the revamp. The bombshell accusation has come from none other than his now estranged former adviser and personal chum Dominic Cummings.

The Electoral Commission has launched an investigation into a potential breach of the law on political donations. Although Johnson claims that he paid for the revamp from his own pocket, critics, including many of his own party colleagues, want him to explain how he obtained the money. One senior Conservative figure –former attorney general Dominic Grieve –described Johnson as a “vacuum of integrity”.

Meanwhile, David Cameron is deep into a lobbying scandal involving a firm he joined as an adviser after leaving Downing Street, and in which he had share options potentially worth millions of pounds. The company Greensill Capital, which has since collapsed resulting in huge job losses, was desperately trying to get financial aid from the government for a supply chain financing scheme.

Cameron is facing multiple inquiries into claims that he bombarded senior ministers and officials with texts and telephone calls seeking favours for Greensill. The stench of the 1980s is back.