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By Lord Watson of Wyre Forest
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Keir Starmer Accuses Boris Johnson Of Using "Shoplifters' Defence" Over Lobbying Scandal

Keir Starmer said the PM's claims "would not wash" with him

3 min read

Keir Starmer told the Prime Minister attempts to shift attention onto Labour amid the lobbying scandal “would not wash” as he accused him of using the “shoplifters’ defence”.

It was revealed on Tuesday that senior civil servant Bill Crothers had taken on a role at the now-collapsed financial firm Greensill Capital, which is not at the centre of a fresh lobbying scandal, while still working in Whitehall.

Appearing at PMQs, the opposition leader asked Boris Johnson if he was aware of any other government officials who had links with the firm’s owner Lex Greensill.

But Johnson said any such links would be uncovered by the government-commissioned independent review, before suggesting that Labour needed to disclose it’s own party lobbying links. 

“[Starmer] is being advised by Lord Mandelson of Global Council Limited,” he said.

“Perhaps in the interests of full transparency, so we can know where he's coming from, Lord Mandelson could be encouraged to disclose his other clients.”

But Starmer dismissed Johnson's deflection away from the current lobbying scandal. 

“I haven’t heard a defence that ridiculous since my last days in the Crown Court. It's called the shoplifters defence — everyone else is nicking stuff, so why can’t I?," he responded. 

“It never worked. I remind the Prime Minister, I'm not only prosecuting shoplifters, I prosecuted MPs over the MPs expenses scandal,” he continued. 

“I stand on my record, that line just isn't gonna wash with me.”

Earlier in the Commons, the PM said that he shared the “widespread concern” surrounding the ongoing Greensill lobbying scandal.

“I share the widespread concern about some of the stuff that we're reading at the moment. I know that the cabinet secretary shares my concern as well,” he said. 

“I do think it is a good idea, in principle, that top civil servants should be able to engage with business in the private sector. 

“When I look at the accounts I'm reading today, it's not clear that these boundaries were properly understood.”

But he dismissed Labour calls for a Parliamentary inquiry into the matter, after the opposition claimed the government’s own independent inquiry marked the “return of Tory sleaze”.

“I think that his own proposal is simply to have politicians marking their own homework,” Johnson said. 

“A committee of MPs to look at it won’t do a blind bit of good. That's why we're having a proper independent review.

“If he has any representations or allegations to make about what is taking place you should make them to the eminent lawyer who's been asked to do it. He will be reporting to us by June.”

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