Boris Johnson risks losing his election gains against Labour if he does not clean up the “shameful” Westminster lobbying controversy, a Conservative grandee has warned.
Sir Bernard Jenkin, chair of the Commons Liaison Committee – made up of senior MPs, has urged the prime minister to get a grip on the lobbying system following a series of revelations in the wake of Greensill Capital’s collapse into administration.
A failure to be “more transparent” than previous administrations could risk the so-called “red wall” seats that Johnson built his 2019 majority on, Sir Bernard suggested.
A series of probes have been commissioned, including by Downing Street, as Westminster looks to understand the role former prime minister David Cameron played in securing Whitehall access for Greensill, which was selected to delve out government Covid support loans at the start of the pandemic and whose collapse now risks thousands of jobs, particularly in the steel sector.
Writing in the Observer, Sir Bernard said the “lines between public service and private gain” had become “blurred”.
The senior Tory described the current situation as “shameful” and “utterly corrosive of public trust in government”.
In an apparent dig at the former Remain-backing Cameron government, he added: “This should matter to Boris Johnson.
“He does not need to pretend to be a saint, but his ‘red wall’ voters, who gave him his majority, will start to dismiss him unless he can show he is more open, more transparent and very different from the out-of-touch elite he defeated in the 2016 (Brexit) referendum and ousted from government.”
Sir Bernard’s theory will be put to the test in only a few weeks as Johnson looks to see whether he can turn Hartlepool, a seat traditionally held by Labour, blue during the by-election on May 6.
Labour is determined to keep the lobbying issue alive, reportedly believing the issue of Tory sleaze in Westminster is cutting through to voters.