Sunday, July 14, 2013

What do Tory donors get for their cash?

Who could ever forget the sight of a grotesquely hypocritical David Cameron working himself up into a fit of faux outrage at the fact that the Labour party are mainly funded by the trade unions. There was a man who knows damn well that his own political party is almost entirely funded through vast donations from the wealthy and privileged (many of them "rogues" to put it mildly), ranting on about the fact that the Labour party are funded through small donations from millions of working people.

Cameron knows exactly where the vast majority of Tory donations come from, because he gladly prostitutes himself out to the wealthy like some kind of podgy, shiny faced, middle aged male escort, "having dinner" or "attending drinks receptions" with anyone willing to stump up a few hundred grand in order to attempt to buy some influence.

How could anyone that pays the scantest regard to politics be able to forget that the Tory party treasurer Peter Cruddas was forced to resign in March 2012 after being covertly filmed bragging that a "Premier League" donation of £200,000 to £250,000 would buy direct access to David Cameron and George Osborne, and that all feedback from such meetings would be put directly to the number 10 policy committee?

It is worth noting that, despite the Cruddas "cash for influence scandal", the Conservative party website still hawks access to David Cameron and other senior Tory figures for cash, with the highest levels of access ("dinners, post-PMQ lunches, drinks receptions, election result events and important campaign launches") available for a £50,000 fee. The following link contains a list of some of the people and organisations to have recently stumped up fifty grand in order to rub shoulders with the Tory hierarchy - Conservative Leader's Group members 2013.

It seems that at least some of the public are able to see through Cameron's ersatz outrage over party funding, since Labour have actually extended their lead in the polls since Cameron scored the PR own goal of focusing attention political donations, yet another appalling PR blunder for someone whose only private sector experience was a stint as a PR man for Carlton TV (a job which was arranged for him by his mother-in-law).

In my view there is still nothing like sufficient mainstream media coverage of the tiny cabal of super-rich donors that have bought such extraordinary access to the Tory top brass, so I'm going to profile a few of these people, in the hope that this article might get shared around a bit.

Adrian Beecroft (Leaders group member)
Tory donor Adrian Beecroft was even invited to draw up Tory employment
policy for them. His proposals included several measures which would
have many obvious financial benefits for his personal business interests.
Private Equity manager Adrian Beecroft has donated over half a million pounds to the Tories since 2005.

Beecroft is the head of the private equity group that administers the barely legal loan shark operation Wonga. The Wonga business model is to prey on the mentally ill, the financially illiterate and the absolutely desperate by offering them usurious loans at eyewatering interest rates. The typical interest rate on a Wonga loan is an incredible 5,853% APR!

Even in the free-market obsessed United States, such outrageous loans are illegal, but here in the UK the Tory party are stubbornly resisting efforts to regulate the so-called Payday lending sector and introduce maximum APRs. Does this resistance have anything to do with the fact that one of their biggest donors runs one of the biggest legal loan shark operations in the country?

In 2012 the Tory leadership invited Beecroft to draw up Tory employment policy for them. What Beecroft came back with was nothing short of a corporate wishlist of pro-business anti-worker regulations, including proposals to introduce sack-at-will legislation, to restrict access to unfair dismissal claims and slash awards that are made to those that are not excluded entirely, to create immunity from prosecution for employers that hire illegal immigrants and to remove carry-over legislation to allow new owners of businesses to rid themselves of long established workers.

Legal loan shark companies like Wonga would be obvious beneficiaries of attacks on labour rights such as sack-at-will legislation and the denial of the right to claim unfair dismissal compensation, however there are obvious benefits to several of his other business interest too, such as hedge funds intent on asset stripping companies they have acquired finding it much easier to rid themselves of the pesky employees.

There was such an uproar about Beecroft's proposals that the Tories couldn't implement many of them, however they have implemented other reforms that benefit legal loan sharks like Wonga, such as George Osborne's decision to make the newly unemployed wait a whole week before they are allowed to claim unemployment benefits (Wonga Week), making a tough situation significantly harder and pushing more people into the financial desperation necessary in order to turn to usurious companies like Wonga.

Philip Harris
(Leaders group member)


Philip Harris, is the founder of Carpetright and has an estimated fortune of £285 million. He has donated nearly half an million pounds to the Tories in recent years.

In recent years Harris has been using his pseudo-charity Harris Academies to hoover up state schools and convert them into academies. Harris has been handed the property deeds of millions of pounds worth of state schools, for free.

Once these state schools are converted into academies, they are still taxpayer funded, but this funding is now topsliced by Harris directors who award themselves ridiculously inflated salaries. The director of the Harris Federation bagged £317,000 plus pension contributions in 2012, with a further five individuals at the pseudo-charity earning in excess of £140,000. An interesting comparison can be made with the maximum local authority salary for secondary school head-teachers which in 2012 ranged between £42,379 and £112,181 (with only the head of a large inner London secondary school eligible for the highest salary). Thus, the people actually doing the work of teaching the children and running the schools get low salaries, whilst the Harris executives fill their pockets at the taxpayers' expense. The idle bosses stuffing their pockets, whilst the people that actually do the work get a tiny fraction of the recompense; an all too familiar Tory party business model.

Stanley Fink (Leaders group member)

Fink is a hedge fund manager with an estimated fortune of £120 million. He has donated over £2.6 million to the Tories over the years. After Peter Cruddas was forced to resign over the "cash for influence" scandal, Fink took over as Tory party treasurer.

Fink was given a seat in the House of Lords by David Cameron in 2011. As a director of several financial institutions, Fink has benefited from the Conservative refusal to regulate the City of London in the wake of the financial sector meltdown ans well as gaining from other Tory policies such as their huge cuts in corporation tax and their reduction of the top rate of income tax.

Aside from his financial sector interests, Fink is also chairman of Zenith Hygiene Group, which is hoovering up ever more government contracts. According to Zenith website "More and more educational facilities and government premises rely on Zenith to meet and exceed their unique requirements. In the education sector in particular we are a growing presence, both directly and through third party contractors." Perhaps it is only coincidence that so many government contracts are being handed to a major Tory party donor?

John Nash (Leaders group member)


John Nash: One of many major Tory donors to have been
appointed to the House of Lords by David Cameron
John Nash and his wife have donated almost £300,000 to the Conservative party since David Cameron became Tory leader.

As director of both Sovereign Capital and their subsidiary ESG, Nash benefited from the award of two £multi-million government contracts. In May 2011 ESG was awarded a £69 million government contract to administer Iain Duncan Smith's desperately failing Work Programme in Warwickshire and Staffordshire. ESG also won another £4 million contract to bully unemployed people in the West Midlands into doing mandatory unpaid labour schemes, for which the firm gains £800 for every person they force onto these unlawful Labour party approved workfare schemes.

Like Philip Harris, Nash is another beneficiary of Michael Gove's school privatisation-by-stealth schemes, with his pseudo-charity Future Academies taking over a number of state schools in the Westminster area.

In 2013 David Cameron gave Nash a seat in the House of Lords and immediately made him a government minister with responsibility for overseeing the development of the new national curriculum. This is a classic example of the anti-democratic nature of the House of Lords. If the Prime Minister of the day wants to appoint one of his cronies as a government minister, there is no need to seek any kind of electoral approval, the guy can just be parachuted into the House of Lords and appointed a government minister. Do we really want to see Tory party donors parachuted into the House of Lords and gifted responsibility for deciding what our kids are taught in school? 
 Alan Lewis

Yet another high profile Tory party donor cashing in on Michael Gove's school privatisation bonanza is the former treasurer of the Tory party Alan Lewis. He is the "patron" of the Kings Science Academy in Bradford and also the owner of the land on which the school is built, meaning that £12 million in public funds look set to flow into his bank account over the coming years. In early 2014 it was revealed that the head of Kings Science Academy has been arrested over allegations of fraud. Lewis has donated at least £374,000 to the Tory party in recent years.

Dolar Popat and other "Lords"

Ugandan born Popat has donated significantly more than £250,000 to the Tory party and is another Tory donor to have "coincidentally" been given a seat in the House of Lords by David Cameron and then been appointed as a government minister. Popat took over from  Lord Marland (yet another rider of the  £200,000+ donation to the Tory party > Lord > Government minister  gravy train). Other major Tory donors to have found themselves appointed to the house of Lords by David Cameron include George Magan (£811,000 in donations), who was appointed as a Lord in January 2011 and Robert Edmiston (who has donated more than £1.1 million via his company IM Properties), who was also ennobled by Cameron in January 2011. 

Paul Ruddock

Ruddock was the boss of the Lansdowne Partners hedge fund until late 2013 and he remains a major shareholder in the company. He has made over £600,000 in donations to the Tory party.

The most obvious reward for these donations was the Kinghthood he received in 2012, however he has been a financial beneficiary of several Tory party schemes.

Lansdowne Partnerships is a major shareholder (29%) in Circle Health, a private health company that was awarded the £1.2 billion contract to run the
Hinchingbrooke hospital in Cambridgeshire. According to the Daily Mirror Circle Health have plans to snap up £8 billion worth of NHS contracts.

Ruddock and Lansdowne partners are not the only financial link between Circle Health and donations to the Tory party.

Crispin Oday has donated over £222,000 to the Tory party - He is the boss of Oday Asset Management which holds a 21% stake in Circle Health.

Martyn Arbib has donated over £478,000 to the Tory party - He is the founder of Invesco Perpetual which holds a 22% stake in Circle Health.

Michael Platt has donated £75,000 to the Tory party - He is the founder of Blue Crest Capital which holds a 7% stake in Circle Health.

Returning to Paul Ruddock, the Tory carve-up of the NHS isn't the only policy from which he is benefiting financially, he's also cashed in on the decision to sell-off the Royal Mail at significantly below it's true market valuation. Despite Vince Cable's promise to keep "spivs and speculators" out of the Royal Mail, ordinary investors were limited to stakes of £750, whilst Lansdowne Partners were handed £50 million worth of Royal Mail shares. Within hours the value of these shares had bounced up towards their true market value, netting Lansdowne an instant profit of £28 million.


David Ross (Leaders Group member)
Whilst his company was collapsing into ruin leaving a vast
£51.8 million pension shortfall and unsecured creditors and
trade suppliers facing appalling losses, David Ross managed
to find £50,000 to give to the Tories so he could continue
to rub shoulders with David Cameron and Co.

Ross has donated at least £265,000 to the Tory party, including a £17,500 donation to former Tory MP Louise Mensch.

In February 2013 Ross's firm Cosalt was put into administration, with shareholders losing all of their investments and trade creditors taking an estimated £9 million loss. The biggest black hole in the company finances was a huge £51.8 million pension deficit, which will be paid off by the government via the Pension Protection Fund. Ross is estimated to have a £710 million personal fortune and whilst his company was collapsing into administration causing huge losses to shareholders and creditors alike, he managed to find another £50,000 to give to the Tory party so that he could continue to rub shoulders with the likes of David Cameron, George Osborne, Jeremy Hunt and Theresa May.

George Robinson & Hugh Sloane (Leaders Group members)


These two guys run the Sloane Robinson hedge fund. Sloane has donated more than half a million pounds to the Tory party in recent years and Robinson has also given them at least £379,000.

In June 2012 David Cameron took the unusual step of lambasting the (so-called) comedian Jimmy Carr for tax-dodging, describing Carr's behaviour as "very dodgy" and "morally repugnant". Just a few weeks later George Robinson and Hugh Sloane were ordered to repay £millions in back tax after a £13 million Sloane Robinson tax swindle was declared unlawful. Did Cameron jump onto his high horse and declare Sloane and Robinson's financial affairs "very dodgy" and "morally repugnant", of course he bloody didn't! In fact, Cameron is still accepting their political donations and according to the 2013 list, still rubbing shoulders with Hugh Sloane at Leaders Group lunches and drinks receptions too!

Gary Lydiate (Leaders Group members)

Lydiate is the Chief Executive of Kilfrost and has donated more than £200,000 to the Tory party in recent years.

In late June 2013, Lydiate was part of a gaggle of around 30 businessmen that joined David Cameron on his visit to Kazakhstan, a country ruled over by a brutal human rights abusing dictator called Nursultan Nazarbayev. It is reported that Lydiate, on behalf of Kilfrost, agreed to invest £50 million in Kazakhstan. Instead of focusing the company expansion drive on the North East of England (where Kilfrost is based) where a few more jobs would be more than welcome, he's decided to pour all that cash into a bloodsoaked dictatorship instead.

Ian Taylor (Leaders Group member)
Englishman Ian Taylor has donated half a million quid to the Tories, and
another half million to the anti-independence propaganda campaign
in Scotland.

Taylor is the chief executive of the oil trading company Vitol and has donated over half a million pounds to the Tories since 2005. Taylor was named as one of the beneficiaries of the cash for access scandal. It is allegaed that his company were given help by the coalition government to set up oil contracts with the rebel forces during the Libyan civil war worth an estimated £500 million.

Under Taylor's leadership Vitol have a long record of extremely dodgy dealings, including a £1 million payment to the Serbian war criminal Arkan (to "sort out" an oil deal) and supporting Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq with kickbacks (for which the company was fined $17.5 million in the US). The company also stands accused of using elaborate tax avoidance Employee Benefit Trusts to allow their employees to avoid paying Income Tax and National Insurance on their incomes. (source for claims in this paragraph)

English born and raised, and London resident Taylor has also pumped another half a million pounds of his cash into the anti-independence "Better Together" campaign in Scotland, funding two anti-independence propaganda sites. These contributions make this English Tory the is the single biggest donor to the anti-independence campaign in Scotland, a place where panda bears are more common than Tory MPs.

David Rowland

Rowland is one of the biggest donors to the Tory party having gifted them well over £4 million.

He was penciled in to become Tory party treasurer in 2010 but withdrew after the press began digging into his past, exposing the fact that he dodged tax by siphoning his wealth through tax havens, first in the Caribbean, and then through Guernsey where he set up residence for 30 years. That Cameron would even consider appointing a serial tax dodger as his party treasurer further illustrates his hubris in squeling about Trade Union donations to the Labour party.

Other Rowland scandals dug up by the Daily Mail include a lead pollution accident in Idaho, the bankruptcy of Hibernian Football Club in the late 1980s, serial asset stripping, infidelity and probably worst of all, a close friendship with the odious Prince Andrew.

Michael Ashcroft

Ashcroft is yet another tax-dodging Tory party donor. If you haven't heard of him then you really haven't been paying attention to politics for the last couple of decades. Ashcroft bases himself in Belize for tax purposes and has given the Tory party over £10 million in cash donations and services.

If you believe that a donation of that size (enough to keep the entire Conservative party going for a whole year) is not enough to buy some political influence, you must be absolutely crackers.

When Ashcroft was given a seat in the House of Lords, solemn assurances were given by the then Tory party leader (now foreign secretary) William Hague, that Ashcroft would give up his non-domiciled status and actually begin paying UK taxes on his fortunes. Almost a decade later it was revealed that Ashcroft had remained non-domiciled, and that Hague's own personal secretary James Arbuthnot had lobbied for Ashcroft to keep his non-dom status, and that Ashcroft had continue avoiding millions of pounds in UK tax on his earnings.

In February 2013, "Lord" Ashcroft announced that he was to quit funding the Tory party out of his opposition to David Cameron's liberal attitudes, specifically his desire to introduce Gay marriage legislation.

The Duke and Duchess of Bedford


This couple are reportedly worth £630 million and are perhaps most famous for being the owners of Woburn Safari Park in Bedfordshire. The couple have donated £49,300 directly to the Tory party, whilst a company which lists the Duke of Bedford as one of their directors has also handed the Tory party over £100,000 in donations.

In September 2013 it was revealed that the Duchess of Bedford has been investing in two aggressive tax-dodging scams called Twofold First Services and Cobalt Data Centre. The Caymen Island based Twofold Services scheme has been described as "abusive" and "artificial" by the Treasury. Margaret Hodge, the Public Accounts Committee chairwoman, was referring to the Cobalt Data Centre scheme as "deeply depressing to find greedy individuals exploiting a perfectly proper Government objective to line their pockets".


It is interesting to note that David Cameron didn't hesitate to condemn the comedian Jimmy Carr for investing in similar aggressive tax-dodging schemes, but when it comes to aristocratic Tory party donors using tax-dodging schemes described by the government themselves as "abusive" and artificial", he has absolutely nothing to say on the subject.

Michael Hintze

Hintze with George Osborne
 

Yet another Tory donor to be up to his eyeballs in tax-dodging scams is the hedge fund owner Michael Hintze. He has donated over £1.3 million to the Tory party directly,  donated another £154,000 through his CQS Management hedge fund and also loaned them more them £2.5 million.

In 2011 CQS Management fiddled their accounts so effectively that they only ended up paying £30,000 in Corporation tax on an operating profit of £85 million. Hintze's Luxembourg based company has successfully avoided paying corporation tax on its profits for years by logging huge artificial losses described as "administrative expenses". Even though CQS has been making paper losses for years, it has been given countless awards at the numerous financial sector awards ceremonies. Had they actually been recording huge losses year after year, rather than just creating them in order to avoid paying corporation tax in the UK, one would have thought they would have struggled to get many best hedge fund awards.

CQS also helped their employees to avoid pating tax on their earnings by paying them through convoluted artificial schemes so that they would only pay 2% tax, rather than the 40% - 50% rates of income tax, had they been paid a normal salary.

In October 2013 Hintze held a lavish £3 million birthday party for himself and several Tory cabinet ministers (including William Hague, Theresa May and Chris Grayling) were in attendance. Just a week or so after enjoying the lavish hospitality of one of their parties biggest donors they attended the Lord Mayor's Banquet where they heard David Cameron promote the idea of everlasting austerity.

  Asil Nadir
Convicted thief Asil Nadir gave large political donations to the Tory party 
whilst he was plundering Polly Peck. After more than two decades the 
Tories still refuse to return the money to the Polly Peck creditors.

After nearly two decades hiding in Northern Cyprus the shamed former business tycoon Asil Nadir returned to the UK and was eventually tried, found guilty of stealing £29 million from Polly Peck, and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. The thefts took place in the years before Polly Peck collapsed in 1990. During his tenure as Polly Peck CEO, Nadir donated £440,000 to the Tory party.

You may think that it is a bit much to conclude with political donations that were made when Margaret Thatcher was still Prime Minister, however these donations adjusted for inflation would now be worth over £1 million. The Conservative party still steadfastly refuse to return the cash to the Polly Peck creditors, even though it was donated to them by a convicted criminal via the company he was in the process of pillaging.

Conclusion

Only the most gullible and cretinous Tory supporter could possibly have read their way through this list and still maintain that there is nothing wrong with the way the Tory party is funded, or protest that these donors have not been getting any level of reward for their donations.

Of course there will be no paper trail to prove exactly what political favours have been handed out in return for these donations, even Neo-Labour weren't stupid enough to leave an incriminating paper trail in the cash for honours scandal. One would expect the Tories to have taken similar precautions, since the one thing most people can agree on is that the one thing the modern Tory party seem to do exceptionally well is corruption.

Only the most delusional of Tory fanatics could allow themselves to believe that all of the huge government contracts, lordships, introductions of extremely favourable legislation, ministerial roles and even invitations to write government policy for them, had nothing to do with the hundreds of thousands of pounds these individuals have donated to the Tory party. This leaves us with only one conclusion. Anyone that knows about these dodgy donations but continues to vote Tory must actually approve of this subversion of democracy: The tribalist Tory apologist must actually believe that it is only right and proper that the privileged should be able to use their wealth in order to subvert democracy by purchasing political favours from the government of the day.

What you can do ...

This list is far from exhaustive. You could look into the background of other major Tory party donors and post your finding in the comments section. Here is the list of Tory donors to have recently donated at least £50,000 in order to join the Leaders Group. 

Leaders Group members 2013

And here is a very useful search tool that allows you to search Tory party donations:

Search the Money

If you are less inclined to dig around in the murky world of Tory party political donations, you could help by sharing this article around so that as many people as possible get the chance to read about what the mainstream media remain suspiciously tight-lipped about.



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