Monday, 2 April 2012

April Fools Day: St Helena Airport and The Ashcroft Connection

Sunday Mirror - All Fools' Day 2012

In 2010 the new coalition Government announced that it would reverse Labour's postponement and would spend some £200 million on building an airport on St Helena. This was against a backdrop of unprecedented cuts in Government expenditure and anticipated falls in living standards for most people in the UK.

Amidst the celebrations I voiced my concerns about the involvement of Lord Ashcroft. The billionaire tax exile was apparently annoyed that despite his large donations, the Conservative Party had failed to secure a majority in Parliament at a time when its main opponents were unelectable:
The high profile involvement of the billionaire Conservative party donor Lord Ashcroft - embittered coiner of the homophobic term "brokeback" to describe the relationship between the leaders of the UK Coalition Government - leaves me with a few nagging doubts about the future of St Helena.

Appearing on live radio at the time, Lord Ashcroft was asked twice how he thought ordinary people would feel about this expenditure at a time of Government cuts. After saying disingenuously, that it was a question for the politicians, he terminated the interview.

Following the row about the Prime Minister's secret entertaining of political donors, the Sunday Mirror yesterday reported the following sequence of events, which may or may not be coincidental:

June 10th 2010 Lord Ashcroft invited to Chequers for lunch

June 21st Lord Ashcroft asked in House of Lords "What are the current plans for an airport on St Helena?"

July 22nd International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell announced the Govt would pay for the airport on St Helena.

Lord Ashcroft has always denied any commercial interest in the island, but he has not ruled it out:
"But who knows? If there happens to be some opportunity that either requires some equity or financing and makes sense, and if I am able to be a catalyst that would help something to happen that might otherwise not have happened, then certainly I'll be happy to consider it."

Yesterday was of course April Fools' day. I wonder who is being taken for a ride?

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