Monday, 28 September 2015

The billionaire behind pig-gate

Solomon Hughes writes about Lord Ashcroft and the lack of scrutiny given to how he made his fortune:

[In the 1980’s] his main business, Hawley Group, was heavily into contract cleaning. Behind the scenes, Ashcroft funded a political lobby to privatize the cleaning of schools and NHS hospitals.

The lobby group he funded, called PULSE (the “Public and Local Service Efficiency” Campaign) was set up in 1985 to persuade the public sector to contract out services like cleaning and catering. Ashcroft gave PULSE around £500,000.

Ashcroft’s firm, Hawley Group, got around a third of the new NHS contracts in 1983-1988.

Ashcroft cashed in, sold off the firms that got rich from the policy he had promoted — and then took his money offshore to Belize.

This Guardian article from 1999 provides more detail, including comments from PULSE’s campaign director Peter Clarke, who praised Ashcroft’s ‘political engineering’:

He gave a six-figure sum for maybe five years, and it opened up a multimillion-pound market for himself and other cleaning contractors. The episode ignited his imagination. It helped Ashcroft realise how he could put on pressure for changes in the law that would benefit him commercially. He was a bright button.

The comedian Stewart Lee also urged his readers to focus less on the diverting story of pig-gate, and more on the messenger:

What matters is who is telling us this, and why, and what power do they wield? But, we’ve been so busy laughing at an amusing jpeg of Peppa Pig running away from the prime minister, it’s a question we haven’t found time to ask.