Those of you who followed the debates in Parliament about the Same Sex Couples Marriage Bill will have fond memories of watching ex Defence Minister, Sir Gerald Howarth make a complete arse of himself by claiming that decent, upright ‘straight’ people like him who opposed gay marriage were in constant danger of assault by raging homosexuals. I wasn’t sure what I found most incredible about this performance – the fact that he could argue his case in the face of overwhelming evidence that the very opposite of what he was claiming was in fact the truth, or the amount of ‘Honourable Friends’ he gave way to during his speech in order for them to agree with him.
It comes as no surprise then to discover that this homophobic Tory has very recently accepted a paid job as a part time advisor to CNU Holdings Ltd who own the pay day loan shark company, QuickQuid. He explained to the House of Commons that his role with the company would be “advising on the effects of legislative changes and other matters” though he didn’t elaborate on what those ‘other matters’ might be. For this he will be paid £20,000. Clearly the people at QuickQuid are unaware of his woeful grasp of the truth or they wouldn’t be wasting their money.
CNU Holdings Ltd aka CashNetUSA are an American outfit who’ve set up QuickQuid over here to take advantage of the huge growth in the loan shark market. They’ve made a killing so far, seeing their UK revenues sky-rocket from £58m in 2010 to £196m in 2012. Recently Daniel Fehan, CEO of CNU Holdings has been heard to express concern over the calls to amend the Financial Services Bill to allow caps on interest rates on pay day loans. He’s been warning that their profits were under threat from possible UK legislation. Oh dear, we can’t have now that, can we? I wonder if the profit- friendly Cameron has sent Sir Gerald along to reassure them that his government are ‘all about growth’ and so will do nothing to stop QuickQuid exploiting the poor in the UK. Maybe those ‘other matters’ Sir Gerald is pocketing his £20K for are to do with explaining to his temporary US employers how much the Tories are doing to improve their market with their policies of impoverishment.
After all Cameron wouldn’t want to upset some of his more generous Conservative Party donors by introducing legislation that hit the pockets that financed him, now would he? Pictured here is the infamous banker Adrian Beecroft, who not so long ago was advocating legislation that allowed the sacking of ‘unproductive’ workers with no nasty Tribunals getting in the way to slap employers’ wrists.
This charming character owns Dawn Capital Investments which is a major shareholder in another pay day loan company, Wonga, the one that endears itself to the unsuspecting public by advertising its racket with cute, cuddly old lady and men puppets who wouldn’t harm a fly. This guy not long ago generously added £800,000 to Tory coffers. And by doing nothing at all about the 4000+% interest rates that Wonga typically charge the Tories have played their part in tripling Wonga’s turnover since 2010. (What was that you said, Dave, about Labour being in the pocket of the unions? Notice any union members’ wages tripling recently, have you?).
The Tories came up with another nice little earner at their Party Conference in Bournemouth last year. They hired a ballroom and set up a kind of ‘speed dating’ event. Representatives from Wonga were among other corporate lizards who paid £1500 a head to woo such Tories as Michael Fallon, the enterprise minister, David Gauke, the Treasury’s exchequer secretary, and Sajid Javid, its economic secretary, Of course, when questioned about this example of Tory prostitution the Party refused to confirm anyone from Wonga was there, claiming it was a ‘private event’. Couldn’t be they were being tight lipped because Wonga’s practices were under major investigation at the time by the OFT, could it? Of course, nothing really came of that investigation….I wonder why?
Next up we have another banker, Henry Angest, CEO of Arbuthnot Banking Group which owns Everyday Loans. Henry is a good friend of the Camerons and a major donor to the Tories having given them £7 million. Very recently he’s been very nice to them again by offering them a £5 million loan at a very, very nice interest rate of just 3.5%. Not exactly a pay day loan, eh? This is obviously a chap who enjoys his country suppers.
This advert for Henry’s loan racket certainly gives me, as an average kind of punter, the strong impression its one of the pay day loan variety. However, despite saying EveryDay Loans is designed for the kind of customer who is ‘under served by high street banks’ Henry flatly denies its one of the pay day loan kind because his loans only have an interest rate of 74.8%. Only? For how long? I suspect Henry is being a tad disingenuous here because he only acquired EveryDay Loans very recently under the guise of Secure Trust Bank – part of his Arbuthnot Banking Group – he bought it for the consideration of £1 from Alchemy when, ironically, it was struggling with debt, mainly as a result of the mis-selling of PPI. It has a loan book of almost £64 million and its operating profit for 2011 was a mere £4.6 million. Henry, being the thrusting capitalist that he is, will want to see it grow but he’s not going to compete in the loan shark market if he keeps his interest rates at 74.8%. And he’ll be hoping, like busy Beecroft that the generosity he’s extended to the Tories will stop any nasty laws being introduced to get in the way of his profits. I think we need to keep an eye on EveryDay Loans…
So what’s happening with the legislation, then? Last year when the Financial Services Bill came up for a reading in the House of Lords, Labour peer, Lord Mitchell proposed an amendment that pay day loans have the interest rates capped. Sounds like a good idea to me. They’ve done it in Canada where its capped at 60% and in Australia where its even lower at 48%. In the United States some states have caps on interest and restrict the number of loans that can be taken out at any one time. Even more interesting is that in 13 states they’ve banned pay day loans altogether and consider it a felony and racketeering to sell one. If proved guilty you can get up to 25 years in jail. This is the major reason why US companies like CNU Holdings are coming over here and hiring idiots like Sir Gerald Howarth. And its a major reason why they want to keep politicians sweet.
Which brings us to Lord Sassoon, Commercial Secretary to the Treasury until very recently, when he left to work for Jardine Matheson aka Jardines, a long established trading company infamous for importing opium to China – in other words a one time drug dealer. Banker Lord Sassoon is a mate of banker Lord Freud. They both worked at Swiss bank UBS. When working there back in the 1990’s he was known as Mr Privatisation because he advised the government of the day in selling off state owned assets. He’s immensely rich and has shares in countless banks and, interestingly enough, in Experian.
Obviously a (self) important man, then. When Lord Mitchell bravely put forward his amendment last year, no doubt sticking up for the poor on whose backs the pay day loan sharks are making a killing, Lord Sassoon persuaded him to drop it with a silver-tongued promise to urge the Treasury ‘to bring in some measure’. The noble Mitchell promptly did as he was told and no doubt the likes of Adrian and Henry and the US chancers heaved a sigh of relief.
You may remember a much more recent raising of hopes that the government were about to step in and ‘do the right thing’ by the 99% of us who rely on them for social justice in this country. Yes, the intrepid champion of the customer Jo Swinson, Consumer Affairs Minister. As recently as a few days ago she rode bravely into the breech to give Wonga and co a hard time and tell them what for. Surely this tough cookie who stood up, no less, against the air brushing of womens’ images on glossy magazines would once and for all put these loan sharks in their place? Sadly, not.
No, Ms Swinson was no match for corporate influence, it seems. Her conclusion beggars belief. She said there would be no cap on interest rates because it might drive people to resort to even worse lenders! So it looks like David and Samantha are going to be doing a lot more entertaining in the coming months and the Conservative Party coffers are no doubt going to overflow with the largesse of pay day loan sharks from far and wide. This, my friends, is what being in the ‘global race’ is all about. Its about making us poor enough to accept sweatshop wages and desperate enough to take loans at interest rates that make the Tories friends rich beyond any of our wildest dreams which we may as well not bother dreaming any more.
So the next time you see David Cameron stand up at the Despatch Box in the House of Commons and point in self-righteous anger at the Labour benches and suggest there’s something criminal and corrupt about their funding from unions remember all the businessmen and bankers who prop up his party of privilege. If he can defend the bankrolling of his profit-friendly policies is it fair to complain when working class folk want to club together to help out a party that stands for their interests?