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HENRY DEEDES: Dodger Dave was as slippery as a bar of soap in a hot bath

Even in the deepest, darkest swamps of the Amazon rainforest, can there be an eel as slithery, as slippery, as David Cameron?

The ex-prime minister was grilled yesterday by the Treasury committee over his involvement in Greensill, the defunct lender on whose behalf he sent all those creepy-crawly texts.

Pinning the former PM down was like grabbing a bar of Imperial Leather in a hot bath. Each guileless lunge the committee made and – whoosh! – out the silky little beggar plopped from their hands.

But what a humiliating experience. A man who’d glided to life’s loftiest perch having to endure hours of insults from grandstanding non-entities, most of whom will likely never rise beyond their lowly backbench berths, let alone bother the ministerial car fleet. 

The ex-prime minister was grilled yesterday by the Treasury committee over his involvement in Greensill, the defunct lender on whose behalf he sent all those creepy-crawly texts

Mr Cameron repelled them as best he could with that buttery charm, but in truth it was an undignified sight for a former PM, and hard to imagine recent occupants of that office – Mrs May or Gordon Brown, to name two – ever being forced to stoop so low.

He appeared via Zoom from his Oxfordshire residence. The look these days is a familiar return to Soho PR man, rather than ex-statesman. The hair was carefully styled, the cheeks pink and plump. 

He’s acquired modish tortoiseshell spectacles radiating Groucho Club vibes. Wife Samantha’s tasteful handiwork, my guess. Committee chairman Mel Stride had allowed him an opening statement.

Mr Cameron repelled them as best he could with that buttery charm, but in truth it was an undignified sight for a former PM, and hard to imagine recent occupants of that office ¿ Mrs May or Gordon Brown, to name two ¿ ever being forced to stoop so low

Mr Cameron repelled them as best he could with that buttery charm, but in truth it was an undignified sight for a former PM, and hard to imagine recent occupants of that office – Mrs May or Gordon Brown, to name two – ever being forced to stoop so low

‘This is a painful day,’ Cameron sighed. Went on a bit. Occasionally, Stride would give an awkward sideways glance as if to signal: ‘Much more of this rubbish?’ 

Mr Stride was keen to know just how closely Dave had been involved in Greensill. Had he attended board meetings? 

Dave revealed that he had, though he made these sound like casual, breezy affairs, as though it were a few blokes sinking bullshots in White’s.

Stride soon raised what he called the ‘delicate’ issue of moolah. What had DC stood to lose in all this, should Greensill have collapsed? Cameron admitted he was paid a ‘generous amount’ by the firm and its slick Aussie boss. Certainly more than he pocketed as Prime Minister. As for his share options, that was a private matter. Anyway, he insisted, money wasn’t his motivation. His lobbying efforts were to help save a great company that was doing a lot of good. Hmmm. Even the wiliest of defence barristers might have deemed that one a tough sell to the jury.

Harriett Baldwin (Con, W Worcestershire) floated on to the screen. Ms Baldwin was greatly excited about Dave’s texts to the Treasury permanent secretary, Tom Scholar, which he had toe-curlingly signed ‘Love Dc’.

She pursued this line of questioning with the doggedness of a National Enquirer reporter chasing a lusty expose. ‘Did he come over for Sunday lunch?’ she asked. Cameron explained he signed all his texts this way. Not to Greensill’s austere acquaintances in Saudi Arabia, I trust.

Next, Siobhain McDonagh (Lab, Mitcham) blasted out a volley of accusatory statements. Didn’t even bother waiting for answers. She accused Dave of demeaning himself by ‘WhatsApping around Whitehall’ selling what amounted to a ‘fraudulent enterprise’.

No, no, no, Cameron insisted. He was trying to rescue something he considered a ‘genuinely a good idea’. By now a shiny bead of sweat had appeared on his brow.

The unmistakeable whisky-sour tones of Angela Eagle suddenly rasped over the airwaves. She suggested Dave’s begging texts were ‘more like stalking than lobbying’. Cameron squirmed.

Eagle wondered how many lifts he’d cadged on Greensill’s private jets from his ‘third home’ in Newquay. Dave couldn’t remember. Cripes, that many?

Rushanara Ali, Labour MP for Tower Hamlets, called Dave a ‘Teflon Man’. ‘Obviously I take a different view,’ muttered Dave.

As the clock approached 5pm, Chairman Stride felt his guest had endured enough. ‘It’s been a difficult session for you,’ he said, with the encouragement of a nursery schoolmarm. ‘But you did stand up to be counted.’

Counted for what, Dave might well have wondered.

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