Friday 14 February 2014

Fidelity bungs the Tories another £75,000

A quick update on "generally non-partisan" fund manager Fidelity. A quick look on the Electoral Commission register of donations reveals that they gave the Tories £75,000 during 2013, comprising three donations of £25k in April, August and November. This compares to £100,000 donated during the year before.

The drop in donations probably doesn't mean a lot, they seem to be a bit erratic. Also, if previous experience is anything to go by, we might see their donations rise quite a bit this year to help fund the Tories' 2015 campaign. In the year up to the 2010 general election Fidelity gave the Tories £300,000.

Also worth keeping a eye on Caledonia Investments. They have previously sought shareholder approval to make donations to the Tories. But I wonder if the Cayzer family are the sort who might switch to UKIP? Or simply give up of the Tories?

Thursday 13 February 2014

(nearly) 7 up

Just realised that this Saturday will mark the seventh anniversary of starting this blog. When I started blogging I had a) no kids b) a lot more time and c) a lot I wanted to get off my chest.

A big bit of my decision to start blogging was to try and get what I had learnt during my time at the TUC out to a wider audience. In particular I thought - and I still think - that the UK labour movement was behind its equivalents in the US, Canada and Australia both in terms of opportunities in the capital markets ('workers capital' type campaigning), and in understanding what the system is really like.

The experience of the financial crisis has greatly increased interest on the Left, and within the labour movement, in the financial system, and I think understanding has increased too. For example, this morning I was re-reading a 2012 briefing by the ACTU on high-frequency trading (PDF at the bottoms of the page). It's the sort of thing that I don't think was really around a few years ago. This increased interest and understanding partly reflects experience of the crisis (illusions shattered) and the fact that public policy has been been more critical in this area (though still fairly weedy) and there have been a lot more consultations to respond to. But whatever the causes it's very welcome.

It's worth reflecting on some of the things that have changed in the past five years. When I started blogging, a lot of the capital stewardship people in the unions worldwide were focusing on private equity. I think we can probably see now that the PE boom at the time had a lot to do with cheap debt, rather than a genuinely 'better' governance model than PLCs.

Also back in the late 2000s the emphasis was still very strongly on shareholder rights, and the extension of them. Post-crisis (and it was an emerging theme before) there is a greater focus on shareholder responsibilities. How effective this will be remains to be seen, but there is a shift there.

Finally, interest in different models of governance and, by extension, lines of accountability, has re-emerged. The 'shareholder value' model no longer seems as solid. So there is (in the UK) serious interest in employee representation in governance for the first time in years. And there is renewed questioning of whether accountability to shareholders alone is a great idea (especially given the changed nature of 'shareholders' - hedge funds, HFT etc).  

I'm operating a reduced service (!) for the next few months for reasons some people will be aware of. But I'm still convinced there is a lot worth saying on these issues from a pro-labour perspective. So I intend to come back re-tooled and re-armed later this year.