Hedge Fund Labour: why is the party of the NHS now receiving money from private health investors?

Keir Starmer and Wes Streeting among Labour MPs with funding from private health donors

During 2015-2019, the Labour Party was firmly against NHS privatisation and distanced itself from New Labour’s health policies such as PFI and increased outsourcing to the private sector. But since early 2020 the party’s shadow ministers have stopped condemning NHS privatisation and privateer donors have returned.

Read on for a summary of Labour’s donor links to the private health industry.

Keir Starmer

Keir Starmer’s register of interest shows that the donors bankrolling his leadership bid in 2020 included hedge fund managers, investment bankers and industry moguls. One of these was Martin Taylor who donated £95,000. Martin Taylor was the founder and CIO of Nevsky Capital, a hedge fund that held significant stakes in Gazprom and Lukoil, and $15 million of shares in private health giant UnitedHealth, as revealed by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Martin Taylor had donated £600,000 to the party at national level up to 2015, then withdrew support. The Financial Times also covered the story. Nevsky Capital was based in the Cayman Islands. Martin Taylor closed it down in 2016 citing uncertain market conditions.

Graphic detailing Keir Starmer’s leadership campaign donors.

UnitedHealth is a huge US health insurance firm, currently worth $459.87 billion1, and is notorious for ruthless profit-seeking. Scandals2 include overcharging Medicare by billions, shortchanging customers, attempting to block health reform, and denying customer claims. UnitedHealth along with Kaiser Permanente are seen as the big private health firms that shaped the US healthcare landscape as it is today – expensive, heartless, inaccessible to millions and profit-seeking to the exclusion of all other factors. UnitedHealth and its subsidiaries have been making significant inroads to the UK health ‘market’ in recent years, and health campaigners regard the company as a serious threat to a publicly owned, funded and managed NHS.

Why did Keir Starmer – the leader of the party that is supposed to fiercely support a public NHS – receive funds from a donor whose job was to derive enormous profits from increased health privatisation in the UK? And why was Taylor, a major private health investor, so keen to ensure that Starmer become the leader of the Labour Party?

A more recent look at Martin Taylor’s current investments show that he set up a new hedge fund in late 2018 known as Crake Asset Management. Martin Taylor, via CAM owns 875,025 shares in Cigna Corporation (Revenue in 2021, $44.3bn). Cigna is a US health insurance company accused in 2020 of Medicare fraud and in 2021 of exploitative working conditions (a story covered in the Guardian). Taylor’s current hedge fund also owns 254,251 shares in Anthem Inc., a leading for-profit US-based health company. Like UnitedHealth and Cigna, Anthem has been accused of Medicare fraud. Another lawsuit claims Anthem is ‘a serial litigant known for making baseless indemnity claims’, as reported by Bloomberg Law.

Wes Streeting

Graphic detailing John Armitage’s links to Wes Streeting and to the private health industry.

Wes Streeting became Labour’s shadow Health Secretary in November 2021. Just two months later, on 27th January 2022, Wes Streeting received a donation from John Armitage of £15,000. As well as being a major Conservative party donor (donating a total of £3.1 million), John Armitage is a major private health investor. Armitage’s Egerton Capital currently holds $833 million of shares in UnitedHealth – a US health firm widely seen as a threat to publicly owned healthcare in the UK, with profiteering reputation discussed earlier in this article. In 2018, John Armitage was announced as the UK’s ninth richest hedge fund manager.

How does this compromise Wes Streeting, the MP who could become the nation’s health secretary? Politicians (especially Conservatives who frequently have very wealthy donors) always claim that large political donations do not equate to bought influence or the donor having any say in government policy – but we have to ask why the rich and powerful choose to make donations, if not in the hope of putting their ‘picks’ in charge of how the country is run? John Armitage presumably viewed the Conservative party as a good bet for many years, including donating £500,000 to Boris Johnson. What does he now see in Wes Streeting that appeals to his values?

Wes Streeting’s support for private companies in the NHS, as reported in The New Scotsman.

As well as receiving funds from financier John Armitage in January 2022, Wes Streeting also made some surprising and concerning comments about the use of private providers in the NHS. He confirmed that if Labour were in power, he would ‘not shirk’ from using private companies to tackle NHS waiting lists. This was immediately met with many voices from the NHS and campaign groups explaining that it doesn’t work like that3 – that bringing in private providers actually depletes the NHS and doesn’t ‘help’ to bring down waiting lists. What is actually needed is emergency funding, more staff, and therefore better NHS staff pay (that completes with rates offered in the private sector). Streeting’s solution is wrong-headed, and also happenes to be the exact same policy that Sajid Javid proposed and is rolling out. To date, Streeting has not explained or justified his commitment to continuing (or most likely, growing) the use of private providers in the NHS on the pretext of bringing down waiting times.

Explainer graphic: private providers undermine the NHS and deplete its resources.

Other donors to Wes Streeting are Lord Waheed Alli (investment banker turned media mogul); Trevor Chinn (ex-auto industry mogul, Conservative donor and BICOM board member); Francesca Perrin (daughter of billionaire Lord Sainsbury, New Labour adviser); Anthony Watson (ex-banker and donor to big Pharma-linked Owen Smith); Peter Hearn via MPM Connect (a wealthy recruitment industry executive); and Lord Jonathan Mendelsohn via Red Capital Ltd (gambling industry lobbylist, New Labour donor, LLM Communications founder and accused in the 1998 cash for access ‘Lobbygate’ scandal.) Read more on Streeting’s other donors here.

Angela Rayner and Dan Jarvis

Labour’s Deputy Leader and Dan Jarvis MP have both received donations from Martin Taylor, the private health investor (see details under heading ‘Keir Starmer’). Angela Rayner received £25,000 on March 5th 2020 for her deputy leadership campaign, and Labour MP Dan Jarvis received a total of £98,000 from Taylor during 2016-2017 (at the time he was tipped to succeed Corbyn as party leader.) Martin Taylor appears to very invested in pushing certain politicians to the top of the Labour Party. The question is whether he thinks they are friendly to his vested interests – or are his motivations purely altruistic?

At the current time this blogger is not aware of any other private health linked donors to the Labour Party. If you are, please comment below or send me a message.

EDIT: On Monday 18th July 2022, John Armitage (donor to Wes Streeting) appeared on BBC’s World At One to discuss the Tory leadership contest. He said the Conservatives don’t realise how much trouble they are in, and gave reasons for not supporting any of the candidates apart from Kemi Badenoch, who he said is ‘top class’. He said he has not donated to the Conservatives since Feb 2022, but has donated to two Labour MPs; he declined to name them as he didn’t want to ‘taint or embarrass’ them. The other Labour MP is Frank Field, ex-MP for Birkenhead. Frank Field once stated that Mrs Thatcher is ‘a hero’. He sits on the advisory board of think tank Reform UK, which recommended in 2010 that the NHS get rid of 32,000 hospital beds, and reduce the NHS headcount by at least 150,000. Reform UK’s Nick Seddon also advocated for an increase in private health provision in the UK.

Additional Sources / articles

  1. Value of UnitedHealth: market capitalization as of June 2022 https://www.macrotrends.net/stocks/charts/UNH/unitedhealth-group/net-worth
  2. UnitedHealth overcharging mental health patients https://www.healthcarefinancenews.com/news/unitedhealthcare-paying-156-million-settle-mental-health-overcharge-accusations; UnitedHealth denying claims https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/payer/ny-health-hospitals-unitedhealthcare-denied-claims-emergency-care-arbitration; shortchanging customers (Ingenix) and other UnitedHealth scandals https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/payer/ny-health-hospitals-unitedhealthcare-denied-claims-emergency-care-arbitration; UnitedHealth lose in court over Medicare overcharging https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/unitedhealthcare-loses-medicare-advantage-overpayment-suit/605034/
  3. A good article explaining why private providers can’t and won’t help in tackling long waiting lists is this piece in the Lowdown by John Lister https://lowdownnhs.info/comment/private-sector-set-to-milk-the-nhs/
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9 thoughts on “Hedge Fund Labour: why is the party of the NHS now receiving money from private health investors?

  1. The the proven liar, fraud and zionist bribed tory, posing as Labour leader and his right wing, centrist cronies are no friends of the working class…They are the self serving tory B team with no interest in serving Britain or the British people…They are a total disgrace, and should have no place in the labour party!

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  2. This is perfectly shattering information (donations to Labour MPs). It looks like we need completely new laws on Bribing MPs and election funding.

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    1. Vote for proven liar and fraud, Starmer and his racist, fake labour, self serving tory party at your peril! They are as bad as the tory criminal Cartel. They have no intention of supporting, or working for the people of Britain! Both tory parties must ve defeated at the next election…for the sake of all of us!

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