The huge financial services group, Macquarie, has announced the completion of its £2.3bn purchase of the UK’s Green Investment Bank. This marks the second major purchase of a UK institution by the Australian corporation, which previously bought – and then sold – Thames Water.
Macquarie is one of numerous companies in various industries that are, or have been, clients of Tory campaign guru Lynton Crosby and have which benefited either from being able to purchase UK utilities/institutions or from changes in government plans, according to 2013 articles (here and here) by Ayes to the Left.
In early 2015, at a time when water regulator Ofwat launched a plan forcing water prices down by 5% a year, Thames Water was able to add £12 a year to each household bill to offset the cost of a new ‘super sewer’ for the capital – which will have made a significant difference to the value of the shares Macquarie sold in the utility, culminating in its final divestment last spring.
Tobacco companies – another Crosby client industry – benefited from a cooling in the coalition government’s interest in introducing plain tobacco packaging, which led to the measures being delayed until May of this year when EU legislation, ironically, forced the government to implement them.
Campaigners have been surprised and outraged by the government’s decision to overrule local authority – including Tory councils’ – planning refusal to force through fracking sites in areas such as Lancashire and Ryedale in Yorkshire, while announcing tax breaks for fracking companies. Fracking is another area in which Mr Crosby has interests.
In late 2010, Crosby’s firm also provided advice to private health companies on how to promote themselves in the UK. At the beginning of 2011, the coalition government – in office after Crosby had helped the Tories to become the UK’s largest party – introduced the Health and Social Care Bill, which passed into law in 2012 requiring health authorities to include, and many would say give preference to, private companies in tenders for health service provision and resulted in the award of billions of pounds’ worth of contracts to private companies.
£2.3bn privatisation deals take a long time to put together, so there is no suggestion of any direct link between Crosby’s efforts for the Tories in the recent General Election campaign and the purchase of the Green Investment Bank.
However, the history of Tory decisions in areas that Crosby has represented raises – not for the first time – at least concerns of possible conflicts of interest that should be properly examined, even if the fact of the Tories’ disastrous campaign in June is of some comfort to that party’s opponents.
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