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Hidden cash

Do you unknowingly buy products funding Tory coffers?
Hajera Blagg, Thursday, March 26th, 2015


That the Tory donor list is dominated by hedge funds may come as no surprise, but did you know that many of the businesses bankrolling the Conservative party sell items you might yourself have at home?

 
As the Mirror reported yesterday (March 25), some of the most everyday products fuel an ideology that’s determined to undo protections for working people, rip apart our public services and browbeat the most vulnerable with austerity, punishing the victims of a financial crisis which was itself orchestrated by the mega-rich.

 
The Mirror’s list includes:

 
Melton Mownbray Pork Pies and Ginster Pies

 
The makers of the popular pies are the Leicester-based Samworth Brothers, who have poured in oodles of money into Tory coffers over the years. Director Mark Samworth has donated £585,000 to the Conservative party since 2010, while the company itself donated just over £30,000 in 2002 and 2003. President David Samworth donated £26,000, which brings Samworth’s total Tory party donations to more than half a million pounds.

 
Next clothing and accessories

 
The clothing retailer funnels hundreds of thousands into the Tory party, with its CEO Lord Wolfson having donated more than £400,000 to the party since 2006. The resulting nepotism is not surprising—Wolfson was made a peer by prime minister David Cameron in 2010.

 
Although Next may be a purveyor of fashionable clothing, the most unnerving thing about the retailer is its staunch refusal to pay its workers decent wages, despite having reported record profits valued at almost £700m.

 
Lord Wolfson criticised Living Wage campaigns last week, saying the £6.70 an hour many of his workers were on, which is just barely above the minimum wage, was “enough to live on.” This coming from a man who is worth more than £100m and earns a basic salary of £350 an hour – over 50 times more than your average Next employee.

 
Lycamobile

 
Lycamobile is a massive mobile phone virtual network operating in various countries, including Australia, the United States, and various EU countries including the UK.

 
It is one of the Tories’ biggest corporate donors, having extended more than £800,000 to the Conservative party in total, despite coming under intense criticism for not paying any corporate tax in the UK on its massive profits since 2007.

 
The Guardian also reported earlier this week that Lycamobile executives were present at a Tory fundraising ball, where they were seen bidding £200,000 on a statue of Margaret Thatcher and also placed winning bids on two other prizes – lunch with Michael Gove and tea with London mayor Borish Johnson.

 
This was the same ball where a Tory foreign office minister was secretly recorded making jokes about benefits claimants.

 
Crombie coats

 
Crombie, purveyors of luxury coats, is owned by former Tory vice-chairman Alan Lewis, who has donated almost £250,000 to the Tory party.

 
The Mirror reported in 2013 that Crombie’s parent company, Hartley Investment Trust, is part-owned by two companies operating in the Isle of Man. These companies are in turn owned by companies doing business out of the British Virgin Islands and the Bahamas—two notorious tax havens.

 
That the Tory party welcomes donations from tax avoiders shows just how much the party is committed to doing anything at all about the mega-rich refusing to contribute their fair share.

 
Autotrader

 
Autotrader UK, an automobile classifieds publisher that once published a printed magazine, has since 2014 been owned by Apax, a private equity firm run by Tory donor Adrian Beecroft. The Guardian sold its stake in the publisher for hundreds of millions under a controversial offshore deal in the Cayman Islands.

 
Beecroft, who has donated almost £600,000 to the Tories, also infamously authored a report in 2012 that sought to tear up employment protections that have been in place for decades, including slashing redundancy notice periods, capping tribunal pay outs and allowing employers to opt out of flexible parental leave.

 
Unite political director Jennie Formby said the list of household consumer goods funding the Tory party comes as no surprise.

 
“This list is yet further evidence proving the extent to which the Tory party is the party of people in high places,” she said.

 

“The big business cash injected into the Tory party is no casual coincidence – many of these businesses and the millionaires who run them are afraid to be taken to task by a government truly serving the people, and so push to purchase into power the party that will protect their interests.

 
“Many of these Tory donors refuse to pay their workers the Living Wage despite massive profits, and they avoid paying tax at all costs,” she added. “They dream of a deregulated world in which global capital controls everything – even in the sphere of public services.

 
“Who else to make this dream come true than the Tory party, the party that opened up the NHS to rampant privatisation and supports massive trade deals such as TTIP, which will inevitably create a race to the bottom for workers’ rights?”

 
See the Mirror’s full list of products funding the Tory party here.

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