A private equity tycoon linked to £300,000 in donations to the Conservative Party has been given a peerage and a job in government. John Nash is the new education minister, replacing Lord Hill — the peer who tried (and ineptly failed) to resign from the government but has now finds himself the Tories’ leader in the Other Place.
Pre-empting the cash-for-jobs headlines, the Tories have attempted to parry criticism with a briefing on Nash donations to the Speccie’s James Forsyth:
“I suspect that there’ll be a media squall over the fact that Nash and his wife have donated £300,000 to the Tories over the years. But the fact that Andrew Adonis involved him in the academies programme and that Pimlico was turned around in record time shows that he’s qualified for the job and more than just a deep-pocketed donor.”
But even the peerage is dwarfed by the government contracts and favourable legislation thrown in the direction of companies in which Nash has an interest. In May 2011, a company part-owned by Nash secured a £69m contract awarded by Iain Duncan Smith’s DWP for the Work Programme.
Perhaps his most controversial transaction came as chairman of Care UK, one of the largest private healthcare firms in the country and which will trouser tens of millions of pounds thanks to Andrew Lansley’s Health and Social Care Act. Nash donated £21,000 to Lansley six months before the general election when he was a shoo-in for health secretary.
Nash isn’t even the first Tory donor to be given a government job this week — £276,000 man Dolar Popat finds himself a minister at BIS.