“Boris Johnson campaign chief’s firm lobbied councils for tobacco firm”

“The lobbying firm co-run by the man heading Boris Johnson’s leadership campaign has been writing to councils on behalf of a tobacco company before the announcement of planned new anti-smoking measures due in the coming weeks.

The Guardian has seen emails showing Crosby Textor Fullbrook Partners (CTFP) contacted councillors on behalf of Philip Morris, seeking to get the tobacco multinational involved in voluntary moves to curb cigarette smoking, as opposed to more onerous statutory efforts.

One of CTFP’s partners, Mark Fullbrook, has taken temporary leave from the firm to act as Johnson’s campaign manager. The lobbying efforts took place in April, while Fullbrook was still with the company.

While there is no suggestion that Fullbrook was personally involved in these actions, or that he is advising Johnson to adopt a similar line, it comes just over a week after Johnson called for a reconsideration of “sin taxes” on highly sugared drinks.

It later emerged that another arm of Crosby’s lobbying group represents a dairy firm in Australia which sells high-sugar milk drinks of the sort that could be targeted by an extension to a UK sugar tax.

CTFP states that Fullbrook’s role at the company has no bearing on his work with Johnson, and that he currently has no contact with clients.

But amid continued delays to a landmark government consultation on public health, expected to include tough new anti-smoking measures, campaign groups and Labour have urged the Johnson camp to commit to not watering down anti-smoking plans if he becomes prime minister.

They have also called on the health secretary, Matt Hancock, now a leading supporter of Johnson, to push ahead with the plans, which are expected to include a “polluter pays” levy in which tobacco firms would be forced to finance anti-smoking measures, and compulsory cards inside cigarette packets detailing the health perils.

The so-called prevention green paper, originally due in the first half of 2019, was scheduled to be released this week, but the Department for Health and Social Care says it does not have a confirmed publication date. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/jul/16/boris-johnson-campaign-chiefs-firm-lobbied-councils-for-tobacco-firm?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

“PM ‘PIMPED OUT’ Tories sell £300k Prime Minister’s dinner with Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt BEFORE new party leader has been chosen”

Surprised The Sun is running this – it’s more of a Daily Mirror story!

“THE Conservative Party has already sold access to the next Prime Minister for £300,000 – before the leader has even been chosen.

Party officials raised the staggering six-figure sum by selling dinner with the new leader at an exclusive fundraiser on Wednesday.

The auction at the Tory summer party – revealed by the Daily Mail last night – has raised questions about cash for access to the new PM.

Dinner for ten Tory supporters with either Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt was offered at the private members’ club bash in West London.

A party source told the paper: “The next prime minister is being pimped out before they’ve even got the job.”

Among the other lots sold off at the posh Hurlingham Club included a signed photo of Boris and David Cameron and tickets to the Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix.

Deep-pocketed Tories were also offered a walk with Tory leadership wildcard Rory Stewart – who electrified the contest with his trips around the country.

A wine tour with Education Secretary Damian Hind was also offered for sale – while a donor paid £40,000 for a private champagne party at the London Cabaret Club.

Boris and Mr Hunt were both in attendance at the fundraising do – along with outgoing PM Theresa May and other senior cabinet figures.

OUTRAGE OVER DONATION

It’s not known who successfully bid for the £300k Tory leader’s dinner.

The sale comes after outrage over the wife of one of Vladimir Putin’s former ministers paying for a night out with Mrs May and six female cabinet ministers in May.

Lubov Chernukhin was entertained by the Prime Minister at the five-star Goring Hotel for £135,000.

The banker has donated more than £1million to the Tories in the last seven years alone.

Theresa May defended the donation as Mrs Chernukhin is now a British citizen.”

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/9441101/tory-dinner-boris-johnson-jeremy-hunt/

“Revealed: one in five peers advise private business while serving in parliament”

Owl says: only 1 in 5!

“One in five members of the House of Lords are working as consultants or advisers to private businesses at the same time as serving in parliament, the Guardian can reveal.

An analysis of the Register of Lords’ Interests shows 169 peers reported working as advisers earlier this year, with more than a dozen registering that they were also paid by foreign governments on top of the expenses they are entitled to as peers.

The consultancies range from a former Conservative MP advising the company of a Romanian businessman facing extradition, through to a former chief of defence staff who advises the government of Bahrain.

The worlds of finance, energy, mining and defence are extensively represented among peers’ clients. Unlike MPs, peers are considered part-time public servants, which allows them to pursue other business. Peers are permitted to work as advisers for private interests, as long as they are properly declared.

The findings include:

A leading Labour peer, Lord Levy, has apologised after admitting failing to register three private interests connecting him to a billionaire Russian businessman.

Fifteen peers are working for or advising foreign governments, including a former coalition government cabinet minister and a former chief of defence staff.

Thirty-eight peers indicated they provide public affairs or strategic advice, an area of particular sensitivity because such work can easily stray into lobbying.

Eighty-three peers have declared an interest in finance or banking, with HSBC, Santander and Royal Bank of Scotland among those to have provided paid roles as directors or paid advisers to peers.

Twenty-seven have declared an interest in energy firms, with the same number reporting an interest in companies working in the defence or security sectors.
…”

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/may/31/revealed-one-in-five-peers-advise-private-business-while-serving-in-parliament?

Secretive group which wants to privatise NHS is funding Conservative Party (and Swire’s choice for PM)

Swire is a lead supporter for Dominic Raab – named below

“A secretive think tank which called for the NHS to be scrapped while its heads pour millions into the Conservative Party – and its MPs’ – coffers is being funded by big tobacco, an investigation has found.

British American Tobacco is one of the groups funding the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), a free market think tank which is notoriously close-lipped about its donors.

The IEA has been an outspoken critic of public health measures for tackling smoking, obesity and harmful drinking, and past funders include organisations affiliated with gambling, alcohol, sugar and soft drinks industries. …

It has close links to the Conservative Party and the chair of its board of trustees, Neil Record, donated £32,000 to health secretary Matt Hancock between 2010 and 2018.

Dominic Raab – who, alongside Mr Hancock, is aiming to succeed Theresa May as Conservative leader – also has close links with the IEA, speaking at its 60th anniversary event, and promoting an annual essay competition as recently as last month.

When asked about these links by the BMJ, a spokesperson said Mr Raab has “always been a strong supporter of public health initiatives to make the UK healthier and reduce pressures on the NHS”.

While Mr Hancock is among the biggest beneficiaries, 30 Tory MPs including David Davis, Liam Fox and David Willets have received cash or hospitality from Mr Record or fellow trustee Sir Michael Hintze.

In total MPs have declared funding to the value of £166,000 from the pair since 2005, and they have donated £4.3m to the Conservative Party.

The BMJ investigation identified a 1999 document listing UK supporters of the IEA, including British American Tobacco, Rothmans UK Holdings, Tate and Lyle, Whitbread, and Coca-Cola Great Britain and Ireland.

When the authors followed up with key organisations to see which were still actively funding the IEA, British American Tobacco confirmed it was still donating. …”

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/health/big-tobacco-funding-conservatives-nhs-hancock-raab-davis-a8916561.html

Conservative Party funded by loads of Russian money

And Hugo Swire stays silent about his business partnership with the British Russian “big cheese” Lord Barker …..

“Given Theresa May’s strong stance on Russia (not least on the Salisbury poisoning), it’s baffling that she has allowed any whiff of links between Putin and Tory donations to occur. But thanks to Liz Truss’s energetic Instagram account, hacks have been able to pounce on a grainy photo of the PM and six female Cabinet ministers at a lavish fundraising dinner with the wife of one of Putin’s former ministers. Lubov Chernukhin’s latest £135,000 charity bid (for the event on Monday) takes her donations to the Tories over the past seven years past the £1million mark.

The Daily Mail has led the sleuthing, pointing out that at last year’s Black and White Ball Mrs Chernukhin won two more auctions – £20,000 to dine with Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson and £30,000 to dine with Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson. Earlier this year, she donated £9,500 to the war chest of Tory chairman Brandon Lewis. Five years ago, David Cameron faced questions after Chernukhin successfully bid £160,000 at a party fundraising dinner to play tennis against him and Boris Johnson.

As the Mail reports, it was not known whether the match involving Cameron and Johnson ever went ahead, but last March – following the spy poisoning – Johnson finally admitted it had. He said: ‘It’s very important that we do not allow a miasma of suspicion about all Russians in London – and indeed all rich Russians in London – to be created.’ Hmmm.”

Source: The Waugh Zone, Huffington Post

Property developer sponsors Tory conference – The beneficiaries of Help-to-Buy have put their name around party members’ necks.

“The housing crisis has become a central issue in British politics, with a shortage of social housing forcing millions into expensive, shabby private rentals; locking a generation out of home ownership; and causing a massive increase in street homelessness.

Help to Buy, a government-backed loan to supplement mortgages for first-time buyers, remains the Conservatives’ biggest housing intervention. But it sucks.

Even the Tory press thinks it’s rubbish. Last month, the Daily Mail’s Money Editor wrote that Help to Buy was a “flawed plan” that “would bump up house prices, boost builders’ profits and increase debt”. In the same month, the normally Tory-supporting Times analysed the Help to Buy figures and argued that “while it has boosted profits for house builders, it has failed to provide the greater supply of new homes that is needed”. The Times worried that even those lucky enough to get a Help to Buy house might now be stuck in “negative equity”, with “young people … being left in overpriced homes that they will struggle to sell”.

For its part, the solidly Tory Sun also worries that sticking with Help to Buy and failing to offer something to increasingly angry private renters could cost the Tories the next election.

So why is the government so keen on the scheme? The answer could literally be around the necks of delegates at this year’s Tory conference. The Conservative party sells advertising space, charging corporations to brand the lanyards that house the security passes conference attendees must wear at all times inside the Conference “secure zone”. Lanyards for this year’s Conservative Conference in Birmingham bear the name “Thakeham Homes”, a property developer making profits with help from Help to Buy.

Thakeham Homes is a Sussex-based residential property developer with an extensive “landbank” throughout the Home Counties. According to its latest accounts, Thakeham believes it is doing well because of “low interest rates and increased demand from first time buyers, supported by Help to Buy”.

In 2018, Thakeham’s turnover jumped 64 percent, to around £30 million. The company’s profits jumped from £100,000 to £4 million. The firm says that Help to Buy helped it boost its business; according to the accounts, “the adaptation of our planning strategy to increase the percentage of Help to Buy eligible properties within our schemes has yielded an increased sales rate and has enabled our resilience in light of the effects of Brexit on the wider market”.

Thakeham says it is “encouraged by continued political support” for Help to Buy, and seems to be encouraging that “continued political support” by giving the governing party cash. According to Conservative Party sales brochures, Lanyard Sponsorship costs around £16,500 (2016 brochure).

Thakeham’s sponsorship extends beyond lanyards. Thakeham Homes began donating to the Tories in 2017 and have now given £107,00 in total.

I asked Thakeham if its Conservative donations were a way of encouraging continued government support for Help to Buy. Their spokesperson: “Yes, we do donate to the Conservative Party and we think it is important as over 50 percent of our construction is for public sector partners. Thakeham contract builds for housing associations and local councils; placemaking and seeking to enhance and create new communities.”

He added: “The amount of product we sell via Help to Buy is small in proportion when compared to our contract build for housing associations and local councils for whom we deliver affordable homes.”

Help to Buy was introduced by Chancellor George Osborne in 2013. It offers a zero-interest loan to buyers of new-build houses costing up to £600,000. Loans are worth up to 20 percent of the cost. The Treasury has loaned a whopping £7 billion on the scheme – that’s a massive and much-criticised intervention in the market.

The criticisms will continue to be made – even from those sympathetic to the Tories. But money also talks. Thakeham is not the only firm benefitting from the multi-billion scheme who in turn give the Conservative Party cash.

In 2015, companies owned by businessman John Bloor started donating to the Tories. Bloor’s firms have since donated £1 million, and Bloor has attended Tory dinners with Theresa May, Philip Hammond and other ministers. Most of Bloor’s money comes from his housebuilding firm, Bloor Homes. According to its latest company accounts, Bloor Homes’ turnover is up 27 percent to £917 million. Profits have leapt by 58 percent, to £152 million. The average price of each Bloor home sold has increased from £275,000 to £300,000 in a year.

The accounts explain this performance by saying “the housing market has been strong” thanks to “the government backed Help to Buy scheme”.

I asked John Bloor Homes if the Bloor donations were a way of encouraging continuation of the Help to Buy scheme. A spokesperson said: “Bloor Homes continues to provide, via various tenure and financial structures, much needed housing from social rent all the way through to private ownership, driven by clear demographic and affordability demands.”

There are also jobs for Tories in Help to Buy firms. Since 2016, Angela Knight has been a director of housing firm Taylor Wimpey. She is paid £60,000 a year for this part-time “Non-Executive” job on the board. Knight was a former Conservative minister who is still “in” with top Tories. In fact, George Osborne – who launched Help to Buy – also gave Knight a job at the Treasury, which runs the scheme. Knight is currently the Treasury’s “Chair of the Office for Tax Simplification”. According to Taylor Wimpey’s accounts, the firm made £589 million in profit this year, with around 39 percent of sales relying on Help to Buy.

If the Sun is right, backing Help to Buy instead of investing in more social homes and regulating rents could sink the Tories, as voters hurt by the housing crisis desert the party. But the donations from Help to Buy-backed companies – not to mention the post-ministerial jobs they offer – might encourage them to stick with the scheme.

@SolHughesWriter”

https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/xwpvva/developers-who-got-rich-off-tory-housing-policy-are-sponsoring-conference

“Tories cling on to tax exiles’ right to vote for life despite bill delay”

“The government has said it remains committed to passing a law that could allow tax exiles the right to vote and donate to political parties for life, after it failed to pass through the House of Commons.

MPs, including the serial filibusterer Philip Davies, tabled dozens of amendments to the overseas electors bill for debate on Friday, resulting in it being dropped after parliamentary time to discuss it ran out.

Under current law, British expatriates can remain on the electoral roll, allowing them to vote and make donations, for 15 years after they leave the UK. The overseas electors bill proposed removing the time limit, giving all expats the right to vote and donate for life.

Speaking on behalf of the government, the cabinet office minister Chloe Smith told the House: “The government remains committed to scrapping the cap.” The Conservative party pledged to bring in the law in its 2017 manifesto.

Anti-corruption campaigners and Labour MPs had expressed alarm at the bill. Margaret Hodge, the former chair of parliament’s public accounts committee, described the bill as “shocking” and warned it would “increase tax haven billionaires’ influence and allow dirty money donations to political parties”.”

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/mar/22/tories-cling-on-to-tax-exiles-right-to-vote-for-life-despite-bill-delay