Labour Leader Ed Miliband took a gamble this week with plans to reform Labour’s historic ties to the unions. From constant attacks surrounding the unions’ influence over the Labour Party in recent years, the Conservative Party play a very risky game given their relationship to very wealthy donors. A main complaint we often hear from the Tories’, is just how undemocratic the election processes within unions are. And this may be true. But again, the Conservatives play a very risky game in highlighting the undemocratic nature of unions, given that 52% of the British public did not vote Tory at the 2010 election; only 36% of a turnout of 65% did vote Tory; they didn’t manage to command a majority; they didn’t put their new coalition agreement to a vote; they didn’t run on the basis of a complete restructure of the National Health Service; and they didn’t explain where cuts would fall prior to election. As undemocratic processes go, the Tories between 2010 and 2013 have led the way on that one.
But the biggest risk the Conservative Party has taken recently, has been to highlight the links between the unions and the Labour Party. And here is why:
The Solicitor General and MP for the constituency of Harborough, Edward Garnier opposes, and voted strongly against practically all smoking regulations, in Parliament. Edward Garnier was treated to a £1,132 invitation to the Chelsea Flower Show, by the World’s third largest tobacco company, Japan Tobacco International (which owns Silk Cut, Mayfair, and B&H). Along with a couple other Tory MPs (also voters against smoking regulations), JTI spent around £14,000 wining and dining their new friends in government, in 2011. A month later, six of the MPs invited by big tobacco to the Chelsea Flower Show, tried to block a bill in Parliament banning smoking in private vehicles that had children present.
In November 2009, six months before the general election, and Andrew Lansley’s promotion to Health Secretary, John Nash of private health care provider Care UK donated £21,000 to Lansley’s personal office. This was the same year that Care UK received a large number of complaints – from demoralised staff, as well as patients – due its lack of acceptable care, losing contracts along the way. As Cameron – opposition leader at the time – was out insisting that the NHS was safe in his hands, that the Tories were now the party of the NHS, his Shadow Health Secretary was being bankrolled by a private health provider that was involved in a string of controversy, including an incident in which two bodies were left unfound for two days at Lennox House in Finsbury Park. Care UK now has a lovely little tax arrangement with HMRC by which, it takes out loans via the Channel Islands Stock Exchange, and so lowers its tax bill (presumably so it can use the saved money, to fund the Tory Party). For a few Care UK horror stories, see here, here and here.
Dr KRH Adams Bolton, a Health consultant for 26 years in Bolton, wrote this of Care UK:
“They do not manage complex cases. They do not have intensive care facilities. They do not have the research and teaching responsibilities that the real NHS has. I would also question if the CARE UK staff have the same training and experience as a real NHS consultant.”
Care UK Hertfordshire received over 2000 complaints in 2009. In Harrow, Care UK received a zero-star rating from the Commission for Social Care Inspection, listing 20 failings, not once but on two separate visits. Not only that, but the miserable company has just won a £53m contract to provide healthcare to prisons.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism conducted research that found the Conservative Party between 2005 – 2010, reliant on hedgefunds, bankers, and investment executives for Party funding with just 10 donors from the City donating around £13,000,000 to the Tory Party in just five years. The biggest individual banking donor, was Michael Farmer, founder of hedge fund RK Capital Management. Coincidentally, he is co-treasurer of the Conservative Party.
Coincidentally, Farmer funded his son’s membership to the elite, violent, Bullingdon Club. Peter Cruddas, founder of CMC Markets gave £215,243. Coincidentally, he is an ex-co-treasurer of the Conservative Party, who once boasted that a large donation to the Tory Party would secure access to the Prime Minister and gain influence at No 10’s Policy Committee. There appear to be a lot of unfortunate coincidences when it comes to Tory Party donors.
Another ex-Tory Party Treasurer is Michael Spencer. Spencer and his business partner David Roland (David Roland is worthy of an article all by himself) donated more than £2m to the Tory Party in 2010. Spencer threatened to move his company’s operations out of London, if a financial transaction tax was introduced. Another wealthy Tory who doesn’t wish to be included in the “we’re all in this together” mantra, whilst threatening the jobs & the livelihoods of the staff he couldn’t care less about, in the process. The putrid Michael Spencer is the personification of Tory Party “values” in 2013.
On to David Roland. Roland, a Tory Donor who was set to become Party Treasurer in 2010 before revelations about his dodgy business deals, forced the Party to cancel his appointment, though not cancel his next £1mn donation on top of his previous £3mn donation the year before.
Rowland bought a lead smelting plant in Idaho which had, before he bought it, caused a massive environmental disaster, leading to acute respiratory health problems for children in the surrounding area, and the deaths of thousands of animals. Rowland bought the company, used the money set aside for the clean up to secure a property deal in New Zealand, and then sold the company. He tried to hide it, by moving the funds to Bermuda, but the US Justice Department blocked it after mass protests and political pressure. Apparently the Right Wing are convinced a single mother claiming a little extra in benefits each month, is monstrous, whilst David Rowland, some sort of hero. Rowland moved to Guernsey to avoid tax in the UK. So arrogant is Tory Donor – David Roland that he unveiled a statue on Guernsey… of himself. Len McCluskey not starting to look so bad afterall.
Jeremy Isaacs donated £190,000 in the past five years to the Tories. He was head of the Asian and Europe part of the Lehmann Brothers company; a company that helped plunge the World into financial meltdown.
Every employee in the country might not be too pleased to know that the man who wrote the government report on the need to strip workers of their rights when it comes to unfair dismissal, Adrian Beecroft, donated over £500,000 to the Tory Party, whilst personally investing in payday loan company wonga.com. Beecroft insisted in his report that the government should make it easier for companies to fire employees (thus, further helping companies like wonga.com), claiming it would promote economic growth. He provided no evidence for that claim. I’m not sure it’s right that very wealthy Tory donors, with links to predatory companies that benefit hugely from austerity, like wonga.com should be allowed to create government policy. As well as the Tories not having a mandate to do any of what they have so far done, the public certainly didn’t vote for an awful man like Beecroft to oversee certain policy making endeavours.
Those that stand to gain from the destruction of the public sector, are guilty of the exact same crime that the London rioters are guilty of; attacking the community that they live, for their own selfish benefit. Eton educated Stuart Wheeler, who donated £5,000,000 to the Tory Party in 2001, is quoted as saying of party donations by individuals:
“absolutely natural and unobjectionable” for big donors to gain influence over policy”.
Lord Blyth. He used to be chairman of Boots, and then Chairman of Diageo – the company who make Guinness. Under his leadership, Diageo restructured its model, to avoid paying any tax in the UK.
In 2012, searchthemoney.com found that the Conservative Party was using a loophole in the donor system, to channel millions of pounds of donations into its coffers, with donors able to remain annonymous if they donated through a private club. If a donor gives more than £1500, they cannot remain anonymous. If they funnel the funds through a club, they can give up to £7500 without being named. Through this, the Carlton Club has donated over £500,000 to the Tories, without having to name individual donors. The local Party of Education Secretary Michael Gove has received over £100,000 from clubs, that don’t have to name their donors.
When Tory backbenchers wave their papers in Parliament in a show of euphoria at the Chancellor’s child impoverishing cuts, we know that they are cheering the further enriching and empowering of their very very wealthy, tax avoiding donors.
I am positive that I would rather a Party represented by Unions, and its members; those who fought for better working conditions, better pay, equal rights in the workplace, the end of child labour, the working week, minimum wage; than hedgefund managers, extremely wealthy, shadowy figures, and dangerous private healthcare and tobacco companies who keep their funds offshore, threaten to leave the country if they have to endure any sort of austerity, and sell access to the Prime Minister for large donations. The hypocrisy of a Tory leadership waging a ‘moral’ campaign against union activity with the Labour Party, is astounding. These are people that should not be allowed anywhere near political power. The Party of the rich, by the rich, for the rich.