A conspicuously tight schedule of media rounds after the Autumn Statement last December saw George Osborne pop up at a JCB factory in Staffordshire before miraculously re-appearing back in London. Transparency data released by the Treasury reveals that this set piece was only possible because the heavy machinery manufacturer — who have donated millions of pounds to the Conservative Party — paid for a helicopter.
With their iconic yellow machinery and logo positioned for the benefit of the cameras, the trip to backhoe loader factory in Rocester resulted in oodles of positive publicity for JCB. Senior Tories have a track record of bending over backwards for company owner Anthony Bamford: at Conservative conference in 2011 JCB was the only British company in a list of firms namechecked in David Cameron’s speech (DETAILS) and last year Bamford had his knighthood upgraded to a peerage.
The 240-mile round trip will have cost thousands of pounds. Along with cash largesse, JCB has form for donating private plane and helicopter flights to Tory frontbenchers — but as the trip was technically undertaken in Osborne’s capacity as chancellor it no longer has to be declared in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.
Scrapbook can’t help wondering how HMT would broach such an arrangement with a company which isn’t owned by a massive Tory party donor:
“Hi, it’s the Treasury. The chancellor would like to come and visit your factory floor after the Autumn Statement. Would you mind paying for round-trip helicopter flights for his entourage?”