Follow the money

There is a golden rule in politics, as with so much else in the world: "follow the money".

Once you know who is paying for it, you know who is calling the tune.

In January 2019 Boris Johnson gave a speech at the JCB headquarters in Rocester, Staffs - just up the road from me.

Three days before that, Anthony Bamford gave Boris Johnson £10,000 - and a £4,000 flight in his really noisy private helicopter. (I know it's noisy - the bloody thing flies over me between Rocester and East Midlands airport. I am in the market for SAMs!)

Take a look at Boris Johnson's register of interests on the They Work For You web site and search for donations from "Bamford" - the £10,000 is only one of at least ten donations you will find.

To me, this looks suspiciously like "Boris Works For Bamford" - he should be on PAYE at JCB!

Anthony Bamford is not a self-made billionaire - he inherited the company from his engineer father, Joseph Cyril Bamford (JCB). Large parts of the JCB empire (the parts that own the other parts) aren't even registered in the UK - they are registered in the Netherlands. Anthony Bamford and his wife, Carole, are major tax dodgers.

Anthony Bamford closed an account in the British Virgin islands tax haven (the same one used by Richard Branson to dodge tax) just before David Cameron made him a Lord. It all stinks - but you can get away with murder if you have a deep wallet and you keep lining the right pockets.

JCB fined £22 million

In 2000 JCB was hit with a £22,000,000 fine for violating European Union competition law.

"The fine centred on JCB's strategy of preventing consumers in one EU country buying its machinery more cheaply from an authorised dealer in another EU country - an approach that the then trade commissioner Mario Monti called a 'shocking' breach of the single market." FT June 15, 2016

Since then Anthony has been an avid leaver and has made over £10,000,000 in political donations. You don't hand over £10 million and expect nothing in return - he got his lordship and he is getting his revenge on the EU.

There is no doubt that certain parts of UK politics are up for sale to the highest bidder.

Anthony's getting on a bit now (he's older than me!) and his yacht (1991 vintage) is looking a bit tired compared to the average oligarch's. Sad.

"Diggers" and "hedgers"

Boris is not only an employee of JCB he is also in the pocket of the city with massive "donations" from:

  • Jon Wood of Aedos hedge fund, which operates out of the Bermuda tax haven. Aedos was the Greek goddess of modesty and humility. (Don't laugh!)
  • Johan Christofferson of Wall Street hedge fund management firm of Christofferson, Robb & Co (CRC).
  • David Lilley, an evangelical Christian and partner at metals hedge fund manager RK Capital.
  • Crispin Odey, founder of Odey Asset Management - the man who made £28 million out of the 2007/2008 crash and who donated over £800,000 to the Leave campaign.

They are certainly getting value for their money because Boris Johnson himself said:

"Can you think of anybody who stuck up for the bankers as much as I did? I defended them day in, day out, from those who frankly wanted to hang them from the nearest lamppost."

He was quite right about the lamppost because, despite bankers bringing the world to the edge of financial collapse in 2007/2008, none of them has (as yet) been strung up.

MPs

MPs are paid an annual salary (£79,468 in 2019 - ministers get more) to work for you - plus an allowance for a second home if required, travel, office running costs and other expenses. They also have a contributory pension scheme, similar to the one of many public service workers, providing the equivalent to 1/40th of their salary for each year of service. They sit for about 130 days a year (equivalent to 28 five day weeks) in addition to local constituency work. They are not "employees" so they are not entitled to sick pay, maternity leave or paternity leave - but they continue to receive their salary even if they don't attend parliament.

A full list of MPs' and ministers' salaries may be seen here.

They are permitted to take employment and receive income from outside parliament and a few of them make millions that way. They are also permitted to accept donations from third parties - as long as they list those donations in their register of interests.

You must decide for yourself if an MP, receiving hundreds of thousands, or even millions, from outside interests, is really working for you.

If an MP is receiving tens of thousands of pounds from an armaments manufacturer it is fair to assume that they will not be unbiased in a debate on defence. If an MP is major shareholder in an investment bank or hedge fund it is fair to assume they will not be unbiased on any debate about finance. If an MP, or a group of MPs, is receiving funds from a Russian oligarch, a Saudi prince, an agency of a foreign government or a non-UK resident media owner, it is reasonable to ask why.

We recommend the They Work For You web site which enables you to see who is funding MPs. Once you know who is providing the money you can dig deeper (via Google for example) to find their background and work out their agenda - what they are getting for their money.

  • Visit the site and enter the name of the MP, e.g. Boris Johnson, Tom Watson or Dennis Skinner,
  • scroll down to see the results,
  • click on the MP's name,
  • scroll down to "Register of member's interests",
  • add up the amounts in each section,
  • look for the names of key donors in section 2,
  • find out more about each donor and work out their agenda.

Think tanks

You don't have to bribe MPs or "own" entire political parties by the scale of your donations, you can set up a Think Tank.

"Think Tanks", or as they are sometimes laughingly called in the press, "Independent Think Tanks", are not independent.

They provide research and arguments for those trying to maintain or change the way the country operates. They provide ammunition for MPs (sometimes they even write MPs' speeches!) and material for the media.

The media colludes with all this - how often do you hear a BBC or ITV presenter or interviewer, when faced with someone from a think tank, ask "just so our viewers know where you are coming from - who funds you - and why?" Journalists rarely follow the money - there are honourable exceptions but they are usually on fringe channels (like C4 News) or on late at night.

"Follow the money", look at who funds them, work out what their agenda is. We recommend the Who Funds You? web site to see who is funding the leading think tanks.

Each think tank has a web site which may, or may not, provide a page showing how it is funded. Look at those providing the money and decide for yourself what their real agenda is.

You can assume that those who refuse to reveal their funding are up to no good - they don't have your best interests at heart. "We respect the privacy of our donors" means "our donors don't want you to know what they are up to."

Some think tanks operate below the radar, they don't provide any public information, they operate in the shadows of Westminster and they can be hard to investigate.

Most think tanks are right wing, very few are left wing.