No one can have missed the news recently regarding the attempted takeover of AstraZeneca by Pfizer. For anyone that may have missed it, some crazy sums have been offered for AstraZeneca, with some news agencies reporting figures in the $60bn region.
Naturally this takeover bid has polarised the political community, with various MPs and ministers coming out either in favour of the takeover and the benefits it could bring to the UK economy, or against the bid, citing the risks and uncertainty of having UK drugs research and development no longer in the hands of UK citizens.
One of those coming out against the merger was Ed Miliband, the leader of the Labour party. He would like major pharmaceutical companies treated in the same manner as the corporations which produce a lot of our military materiel, with national interest assessments carried out and the government having the power to block any mergers or takeovers which didn’t pass the tests.
From a certain point of view, this seems like common sense: after all, why put the manufacture, research, development and provision of your infrastructure in the hands of a country that you have no control over?
Why should this be a concern now? Well…
Back in 2007, after becoming Prime Minister, Gordon Brown appointed a lady called Shriti Vadera to the post of Parlimentary Under-Secretary of State within the Department for International Development. However, as she was not an elected MP or a member of the House of Lords, she was created a life peer as Baroness Vadera of Holland Park on 11 July 2007.
When she left politics in 2010, she was appointed to the board of AstraZeneca as a non-executive directory. She went on to donate £4,402 to Ed Miliband’s office for “venue hire and catering costs for evening events”.
One might think that, a former Labour party politician who was made a life peer by that party, who went on to become a director at a major pharmaceutical company, who then subsequently donated cash to the leader of the party she used to work for and who made her a peer, who himself then waded in so publicly in such a high profile event in favour of the company in question could be considered to look a little dodgy…