David Cameron’s texts; why Rishi Sunak should have fronted up over Greensill – Tom Richmond

RISHI SUNAK is not the first Chancellor to evade urgent questions tabled in Parliament – Gordon Brown began it, George Osborne maintained it, and Philip Hammond did likewise whenever it suited.

However, Sunak risks diminishing his own reputation after declining to answer this week’s urgent question, tabled by Labour, about the Tory cronyism and lobbying scandal, and those text messages sent to him by David Cameron

The Richmond MP will probably argue that he had other duties and that he will co-operate with the inquiry launched by Boris Johnson into the access that Cameron enjoyed on behalf of Greensill Capital whose financial collapse, let it be remembered, leaves the Stocksbridge, Rotherham and Scunthorpe steel plants in limbo.

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Yet, having placed his text responses to the former PM into the public domain in an attempt to distance himself from this sleaze scandal, Sunak was duty-bound to provide the wider context sought by MPs over his apparent rebuffs of Cameron.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is keeping his silence over the Tory lobbying scandal.

After all, his first duty should be to the public purse and value for money for taxpayers – not the selfish interests of Cameron, his one-time boss – and the Chancellor should be embracing such scrutiny, in order to clear his name at the very earliest opportunity, if, indeed, he has nothing to hide.

He set high standards – and expectations – over the Treasury’s response to Covid and the public expect this to apply to every sphere of Sunak’s duties. Just because his predecessors were evasive when it suited them offers no defence.

But three further points should not be overlooked. First, Sunak’s silence is at odds with his slick PR operation, especially online, to promote his political ‘brand’. He can’t have it both ways.

Second, he would have been performing a great national service if he had seized the initiative – and perhaps instigated a Treasury Committee inquiry – rather than leaving Boris Johnson to be skewered by both Sir Keir Starmer, and the Speaker, at PMQs.

David Cameron's reputation was already in ruins before the lobbying scandal.

Finally, Sunak will – one day – hope to succeed Johnson at PM. Then he will have no hiding place and this episode would, perversely, have been good preparation for such future inquisitions. Assuming, of course, there’s been no impropriety on the Chancellor’s part – or breach of the Ministerial Code.

BEWARE the latest text message scam – purporting to be from the Royal Mail asking for a £2.70 “settlement fee” for excess postage. It’s a hoax.

If you make them mistake and open the link, as I did, it looks totally plausible and legitimate until you start filling in the form.

My suspicions were only raised by the amount of personal information being sought while struggling to think of any items that might be missing in the post.

has Rishi Sunak been diminished by his non-response to Parliament over the lobbying scandal?

And then it clicked – just how would Royal Mail have my mobile phone in the first place?

When I went to the Yeadon sorting depot to check this out, they had no interest in taking this further – or even wanting the number from which the original text message was sent. No wonder the scammers are so fearless when Royal Mail’s response is third class – if that.

SHIRLEY Williams didn’t just change education when she presided over the introduction of comprehensive schools; her defection from Labour to the-then SDP altered politics in the 1980s.

The SDP and its subsequent merger with the Liberals provided a legitimate alternative to Margaret Thatcher’s Tories and Labour whose then-leader Michael Foot looks positive moderate in comparison to one Jeremy Corbyn.

Now, just when there’s a role for an alternative to Boris Johnson’s post-Brexit populism and Sir Keir Starmer’s unconvincing leadership of Labour, the Lib Dems appear to have disappeared – certainly from the national stage.

Totally unsure how to position itself electorally after Brexit, its latest leader Sir Ed Davey – who, you might ask? – had promised to turn the Lib Dems into the party of carers. That’s going well, isn’t it?

THE Parliamentary tributes to Prince Philip should have been a genuinely moving national moment of reflection. That they were not was, in part, due to the now irritating tendency of Ministers and MPs to read out pre-prepared speeches that lack spontaneity – some clearly written by sixth form social studies students for them.

A notable exception was Theresa May – remember her? – who spoke off-the-cuff and made one of the few original contributions when she described, from personal experience, the importance of leaders having strong and supportive partners.

“It was that willingness to put himself second and to serve, to understand the importance of duty and to exercise it day in, day out, that will be his true lasting legacy, and that should be an inspiration to us all,” she said of Prince Philip.

Well said.

FINALLY, I’ll never forget the look of loving affection between the Queen and Prince Philip after Her Majesty’s horse Estimate won at Royal Ascot in 2012.

It fell to the Duke of Edinburgh to present the Queen’s Vase to the winning owner – and Estimate’s chances had been the subject of much talk in the Royal carriage 24 hours earlier when the Royal party included Sir Peter O’Sullevan.

The ‘look’ suggested that the Duke had been part of this particular betting ‘coup’ – and that he was justifiably proud on one of those rare days when Royal roles were reversed and he presented a prize to the Queen. Great memories of a Royal consort who had an instinctive way of handling his varied public duties.

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