Exclusive: Cameron Aide Quits For Wonga
Controversy over business access to the heart of government will be reignited this week when a senior adviser to David Cameron defects to Wonga, the payday loan provider.
I have learned that Jonathan Luff, a senior Downing Street aide, is to leave before taking up a role running government affairs at Wonga.
Mr Luff, who has been running a key trade promotion campaign for several months, is not subject to any restrictions on the timing of his move and is expected to start his new job in the coming weeks.
It is likely to provoke protest among MPs critical of Wonga's business model that the company will have inappropriate access to ministerial decision-makers.
Mr Luff's appointment comes as the Office of Fair Trading intensifies a crackdown on payday lenders amid concern over the industry's business practices.
Wonga's business model has provoked intense controversy in Westminster because of the interest rates it charges - in some cases, more than 4,000 per cent. The company argues that such annualised figures are irrelevant because the loans it makes are over much shorter periods.
In recent weeks, Wonga became embroiled in a fresh row over a sponsorship deal with Newcastle United, the Premier League football club, when it was accused of exploiting local consumers.
The company's supporters argue that it is responding to consumer demand and is helping to fill a gap left by a contraction in lending by high street banks. Wonga has made well over four million loans to consumers in the last few years.
A Wonga spokesman said it was "delighted" that Mr Luff would be joining the company.
Mr Luff has worked on the 'Great' campaign to promote British excellence internationally for the last two years. Before that, he spent 12 years in the Diplomatic Corps, serving in London, the Middle East and Europe.
His appointment is especially contentious because of looming regulatory intervention in the payday lending sector.