poplarmark

Mark – my words

HMG reviews its policy on wine for hospitality

One of the bodies to go up in flames in the coalition’s 2010 Bonfire of the QUANGOs was the Government Hospitality Advisory Committee on the Purchase of Wines (GHACPW), which had existed since 1922, making it one of the very first QUANGOs to be created. Its abolition will save virtually nothing, since it consisted only of four Masters of Wine who apart from expenses were unpaid for their duties, and a civil servant who acted as secretary, and whose full-time job presumably is (and remains secure) in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The GHACPW used to meet just four mornings a year, deliberating and sampling wines, followed by lunch. It could be argued that their expertise led to the creation of what must be one of the best collections of wine anywhere – if in these straitened times that can be considered a worthwhile achievement. Still, no doubt the symbolism inherent in the abolition of the GHACPW was felt to be worthwhile.

Meanwhile, a review has been conducted into the operation of the hospitality wine cellar at Lancaster House, and it has concluded that “retaining a Government Wine Cellar remains the most cost effective way to supply wine for Government Hospitality functions and State Banquets, but that substantial reform was needed.” The plan is in part to “conduct targeted sales of high value stock in order to pay for future purchases.” And goodness knows they have enough high value stock to see them through a good many years to come.

A series of Freedom of Information requests have resulted in the publication of a partial list of the Government’s hospitality wine stockholding, on the Foreign & Commonwealth Office website. It’s in two parts, in PDF format, and I should warn you that the files are rather large, as befits the nature and value of the assets they document! Here they are:

So now is your chance to get your bids in for those rare and special wines that your own cellar may lack. A ’55 Château Latour? “The essence of wonderful claret.” A 1961 Bouchard Corton? “A national treasure. Use with extreme caution for heads of state.” The odd magnum of ’64 Krug?

It will be interesting to learn, if we are allowed, to whom these wines are eventually sold, and the values they realise.

I was first alerted to this subject by an article in The Guardian.

What went wrong?

To Katie Ghose and all at the Yes campaign:

What your erstwhile supporters would now like to know is this: how come the Yes campaign screwed up so badly? Did you have the wrong headline messages? (I know that where I live, the “make your mp work harder” line generated massive pushback!) Were you too slow to recognize and challenge the lies that the No campaign produced? Why did you fail to invest in explaining the mechanics and the advantages of AV?

The referendum was a sitting duck for Yes. All the positive arguments were on the Yes side. The No side failed to produce any positive arguments for FPTP. Yet the vote was overwhelmingly lost.

Please use whatever funds remain to commssion a survey from YouGov, or Ipsos Mori, or whoever, to determine why people were persuaded to cast their votes against reform.

You owe it to your supporters. You owe it to the millions who voted Yes. Please.

Electoral Reform Society – no conflict of interest

Once again, the No to AV campaign is shouting foul over the relationship between the Electoral Reform Society (ERS), one of the Yes campaign’s main sources of finance, and ERS subsidiary Electoral Reform Services (ERSL). Time for some facts.

The Electoral Reform Society has existed for well over a century, with the primary objective of securing voting reform. Specifically, ERS wants the UK to adopt Single Transferable Vote proportional representation. The ERS Memorandum of Association (PDF) makes this quite clear. It also makes clear that the Society may “advocate and support other measures, not being inconsistent with” the PR objective. Note also that ERS is a membership society and not a charity, as under UK law charities are forbidden from acting for political purposes.

On the topic of the present referendum on AV, ERS balloted its members and their decision was to support the “Yes” campaign. This decision, wholly consistent with the Society’s published objectives, was arrived at in an entirely proper and above board manner, as anyone familiar with ERS would naturally expect.

From its beginnings, the ERS has sought to raise the standards of probity and honesty involved with ballots and elections and has built a reputation for integrity and impartiality that is recognised internationally. More than a century after its inception, the Society found that demand for its services was increasing as organisations in many fields became more willing to resolve issues through ballot and consultation. To meet the growing need for direct ballot management, Electoral Reform Ballot Services was constituted as a separate company in 1988.  Now known simply as Electoral Reform Services (ERSL), the company offers the benefits of over 115 years’ experience of best practice in election, ballot and consultative process administration. ERSL provides, on a commercial basis, electoral services including conducting elections, ballots and referendums, for a wide range of companies, organizations and local authorities.

As a wholly-owned subsidiary of ERS, all profits from ERSL are returned to ERS. This is and always has been an open and transparent arrangement. ERSL clients, including those in the public sector, are naturally entirely free to select alternative election service providers if they so choose.

It’s difficult to understand how anyone in possession of these facts can construe this perfectly logical and sensible state of affairs as any kind of conflict of interest. One can only conclude that the No campaign is seeking to gain advantage for its own cause through innuendo and malicious mudraking, attempting to insinuate that there is something improper in ERS pursuing the electoral reform objectives for which it exists.

Is AV better than FPTP? (via Gowers’s Weblog)

Professor Tim Gowers treats us to a comprehensive rubbishing of the No to AV campaign’s arguments, some of which he proves to be false using mathematics.

It’s a long article, but well worth reading. I’ve seen no better single collection of reasons why anyone with a brain should cast anything but a “Yes” vote on May 5th.

Is AV better than FPTP? On May 5th the UK will vote in a referendum for only the second time ever. (The first time was in 1975, when we voted on whether to remain in the EU, or the Common Market as it was then called.) Now we have a chance to decide whether to retain our current voting system, misleadingly known as First Past The Post, or whether to switch to the Alternative Vote. Let me come clean straight away. Although in this post I shall try to write dispassionatel … Read More

via Gowers’s Weblog

Annotated No2AV donor list

So the No to AV campaign did after all publish a list of donors. I must say I was surprised that they did so.  I was expecting that they’d want to conceal who has been funding them, because the list was always likely to consist of “the usual suspects” – the “the great and the good”, the peerage and landed gentry, the millionaires, the billionaires and the assorted City types who traditionally bankroll right-wing causes. And with few exceptions, this has proved to be the case – note a very strong overlap with this list of Conservative party donors.

Below for your amusement is the No campaign’s top donors list, annotated with such publically available information as I was able to quickly collect on the forty one individuals and organizations who made donations of £10,000 and above.

Peter Cruddas £400,000

Founder of CMC Markets, said to be the richest man in the City. Donated around £200,000 to the Conservative party in 2009. His wife Fiona is also a dedicated Conservative fundraiser.

Jonathan Wood £100,000

Jonathan Wood is a British hedge fund manager and regular donor to the UK Conservative Party. He is the founder of the hedge fund SRM Global. He donated £500,000 to the Conservative Party in 2010.

Michael Davis £100,000

Can’t positively identify this donor. There’s a Michael Davis who is Director of Strategy and Performance at the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, Chair of Governors at Leicester College and Chairman of Lastolite. There’s a Canadian Michael Davis, CEO of the Responsive Marketing Group (RMG), a telemarketing corporation that raises money for many of Canada’s biggest charities. And of course there’s Conservative MP a leadership challenger David Michael Davis.

Lord (John) Sainsbury £100,000

Sits in the House of Lords as a member of the Conservative Party.

Michael Farmer £100,000

Hedge fund founder who donated £325,000 to the Conservatives between January and March 2010, and £262,800 between April and June last year.

John Caudwell £75,000

An English businessman who has made most of his money in the mobile phone business (Phones4U). In 2005, the Sunday Times estimated Caudwell’s wealth at £1,280 million   I can’t find any traces of political donations.

Lord (Philip) Harris £75,000

Conservative member of the House of Lords and businessman. Carpetright.

Lord (Graham) Kirkham £75,000

Executive Chairman of DFS Furniture Company Ltd, Kirkham is a strong political and financial supporter of the Conservative Party, and is one of South Yorkshire’s richest men, with a personal fortune estimated at £315m.

FIL Investment Management Ltd £50,000

Fidelity – city brokerage company.

Mark Samworth £50,000

Director, Samworth Brothers, Food company. Slogan “People, Quality and Profit”

James Lyle £50,000

Financier, Hedge Fund manager. Has donated upwards of £500,000 to Conservatives.

Sir Donald Gosling £50,000

Co-founder of National Car Parks. On ST Rich List, worth ~£400M. Conservative donor.

John Spurling £50,000

Pet insurance magnate PetPartners.  Donated to Iain Duncan Smith’s leadership campaign, and to Michael Ancram MP.

The Funding Corporation Limited £50,000

A company that “specialises in finding appropriate funding solutions to businesses and individuals.” “The Funding Corporation doesn’t operate under the same constraints as conventional funding organisations.”   Appears to be indirectly owned/directed by the evangelical Christian millionaire Bob Edmiston.  Some question mark over the ethical standards of the Funding Corporation?

IPGL Limited £50,000

A private holding company which invests in world class financial services businesses.  Chief Executive Michael Spencer was until recently treasurer and member of the board of the Conservative Party.

Edwin Healey £50,000

Eddie Healey and his brother Malcolm built up the Hygena kitchen empire and in 2008 were listed as having a joint fortune of £1.9Bn. Eddie was the force behind Sheffield Meadowhall development. In 1995, Eddie Healey’s property group Stadium City was one of the leading donors to the Conservative party.

David Mayhew £30,000

Old Etonian Chairman of Cazenove,”the Queen’s stockbroker”.

Christopher Rokos £30,000

“One of the Conservatives’ city backers, Christopher Rokos, a millionaire fund manager, gave [The Conservatives] £100,850…”

Lord (Stanley) Fink £28,000

Hedge fund manager, co-treasurer of Conservative party.

Andrew Sells £25,000

Chairman, The Garden Centre Group (Wyevale). Co-treasurer of No2AV. Known Tory donor.

Lord (Charles G) Leach £25,000

Conservative life peer. Rodney, not Charles (there is no Lord Charles Leach).

Lord (Simon) Wolfson £25,000

Conservative Life Peer. Chief Executive, Next Retail.

Killik & Co LLP £25,000

Asset Management company. / Chief Executive Paul Killik, Matthew Orr.

JC Bamford Excavators Ltd £25,000

Longstanding track record of donations to Conservative party.

Company director Mark Bamford is a member of the board of The Conservative Party Foundation, established to support the Conservative Party financially in the long-term.

JCB tycoon Sir Anthony Bamford is a staunch Tory supporter. Prime minister David Cameron recommended Bamford for a peerage in 2010. This, however, was turned down by the House of Lords authorities due to concerns regarding Bamford’s taxes. He is one of the biggest donors to the Conservative Party.

Ivor Braka £25,000

Art dealer. Oundle School & Pembroke College Oxford. Owns Gunton Hall in Norfolk. In Q42009, Braka donated £100,000 to Conservatives.

Lord (David) Wolfson £25,000

Conservative Life Peer. Secretary to the Shadow Cabinet and Chief of Staff of the Political Office, 10 Downing Street, between 1979 and 1985.

Jeremy Hosking £25,000

British businessman, co-founder and investment portfolio manager for private investment fund Marathon. Has 25% share holding in Crystal Palace F.C.. Hosking was ranked number 333 on the Sunday Times Rich List in 2009, with a value of £170M  In December 2009, Hosking donated £30,000 for funding research support, to Conservative MP David Davis.  In Q42009, Hosking donated £125,000 to Conservatives.

John Nash £25,000

Chairman of Care UK, one of UK’s largest private health companies. Wife Caroline is a regular Tory donor, who together with her husband, has given a further £107,000 since 2006.

Arbuthnot Banking Group plc £20,000

Chairman & Chief Executive Henry Angest has funnelled almost £7m to the Tories in loans and donations over the past nine years.

Nicholas Jenkins £20,000

Can’t postively identify. Possibly Nick Jenkins, ex-commodities trader and millionaire founder of Moonpig.com “I had the privilege of a good education and success seemed like a very reasonable aspiration” No record of Conservative donation though.

Hugh Sloane £15,000

Number 291 in The Sunday Times rich list 2009. One of the founders of hedge fund Sloane Robinson. Sloane’s compensation level exceeds even the reported £50 Million “bonus” paid to a Goldman Sachs director and the huge compensation package of Roger Jenkins, leader of Barclays Capital. Sloane Robinson has a Cayman Islands base. Sloane donated >£100,000 to Conservatives in 2008

David Ord £10,000

Managing Director of the Bristol Port Company and was the Non-Executive Chairman of MITIE Group plc from 2003-2008. He has been the Conservative Party‘s S.W. Regional Treasurer since 1999. He joined the Conservative Foundation‘s Board in February 2011.  “Another party donor is David Ord, the managing director of the Bristol Port Company, Britain’s largest privately owned ports company, and a director of Open Europe, the euro-sceptic think-tank”

Andrew Brannon £10,000

Possibly refers to the Chairman, Mortlake & Barnes Conservative Party. Has donated on at least 2 occasions to Alan Duncan MP.

William Cook Holdings Ltd £10,000

Chairman Andrew Cook runs three steel plants in the Sheffield area and has donated almost £750,000 to the Tories. Mr Cook’s support for the Tories has included flying Mr Cameron around Britain on 27 separate private plane journeys at a cost of £54,000.

Peter Hargreaves £10,000

Founder and Chief Executive of broker and investment adviser Hargreaves Lansdown, Mr Hargreaves was ranked No 111 in The Sunday Times Rich List, with a personal fortune put at £570 million.   Supporter of Thatcher, critical of Cameron and Con-Dem coalition.

Rhoderick Swire £10,000

Director of investment trust Pantheon International Participations PLC. Has donated to Conservative MP Philip Dunne

Charles Caminada £10,000

“Charlie” Caminada is Chief Operating Officer and Executive Director, Ludorum Plc, which aims to exploit technological means of managing IP rights. Has previously donated to Andrew Mitchell MP (Conservative, Sutton Coldfield).

Naguib Kheraj £10,000

Former chief executive of JP Morgan Cazenove and one-time global head of investment banking at Barclays Capital. Briefly in Jan/Feb 2011, Chief Executive of Lazard International, he now intends to concentrate on philanthropic activities. Known Conservative party donor.

GMB Union £10,000

Probably not a Conservative party donor.

Richard Hoare £10,000

deputy-Chairman of the private bank C Hoare & Co. Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire. Gave £55,000 to Conservatives in 3Q2010  His family donated Stourhead to the National Trust.

Robin Fleming £10,000

Has donated to David Cameron, Conservative leader.  The Fleming banking family cashed in a fortune of £1.7bn when they sold out to Chase Manhattan in 2000.

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