Stefano Pessina is the boss of Walgreens Boots Alliance, a global holding company which owns a number of pharmaceutical manufacturing, wholesale and distribution companies. It is huge and highly successful with 370,000 employees around the world, 55,000 of whom are in the UK. In 2013-4 it paid £550 million in tax to the UK government. Stefano has immense responsibilities, to his customers, to his employees and to the people who have invested in this business. He must look after all of these not only today but also well into the future.
So when he says that Labour’s policies are “not helpful for business, not helpful for the country and in the end, it probably won’t be helpful for them” he is speaking from a position of huge experience, responsibility and knowledge. He is letting his customers, employees and investors know what the effect of a Labour government would be to them. Stefano went on to say “If they acted as they speak, it would be a catastrophe”, which is exactly right.
Ed Miliband’s problem is that he does not understand the real world and has no grasp of business or economics. Last time he was in a position of power he made a monumental mess of it. His policies are based on what he will spend with no knowledge or care about where the money will come from. He seeks to punish successful people and to reward failure. If implemented his policies will trash Great Britain, just as every Labour government before has done. This is all self evident to anyone with an understanding of economics.
Stefano has a duty to a vast number of people to warn them of this.
Labour responded by attacking the man, because they have no answer to the truths that he tells. Chuka Umunna said “The British people and British businesses will draw their own conclusions when those who don’t live here, don’t pay tax in this country and lead firms that reportedly avoid making a fair contribution in what they pay purport to know what is in Britain’s best interests”. This is the rhetoric of the playground. Every company has a duty to legally minimise its tax, so as to leave more money for the company to invest and where the boss of a global company lives is entirely up to that boss. If UK taxes on successful high earners weren’t so ridiculously high then many of them would come to live in Great Britain, but who can blame them for seeking to keep the money that they have earned.
Ed Miliband said “This is in the news at the moment because yesterday the chairman of Boots started telling people how to vote in the UK general election. Well, it turns out that the chairman of Boots lives in Monaco and is actually avoiding his taxes. Now, I’ve just got to say to you, I don’t think people in Britain are going to take kindly to being lectured by somebody who’s avoiding his taxes on how they should be voting at the UK general election…..You’ve now got this unholy alliance between the Conservative Party and people like him who are actually saying that the country can’t change. I think we can change the country. I think part of my job is to say: ‘We’re going to stand up to these powerful forces who aren’t paying their taxes, who are avoiding their taxes.’ Because frankly, they have a responsibility….So Mr Pessina, who’s being trying to lecture us about what we should be doing in this country – frankly I think he should be paying his taxes”
As you can see this is a mixture of lies, prevarication and equivocation. Ed is obviously very rattled indeed because, deep down inside, he knows that Stefano is telling the truth and that Labour have no answer to it.
Labour supporters have reacted like one of Pavlov’s dogs, exactly as you would expect. They believe in free speech, but only when they agree with what is being said. They don’t agree with Stefano having the right of free speech when he tells the truth about Labour. So they are calling for a boycott of Boots. Thus seeking to harm the 55,000 people in the UK who rely on Boots for their income and for their families’ living. Once again the left proving that they are the nasty party and that they have no understanding of business and economics. You can see the febrile rantings of these people on Twitter under the #BoycottBoots hashtag. It really is quite amusing to see their lack of education and intellect.
Note: Alliance Boots say Stefano’s comments have been taken out of context, noting: “Stefano Pessina was expressing his personal views only and is not campaigning against Ed Miliband or the Labour party…..Prior to completion of the merger with Walgreens in December 2014, the corporation tax paid by Alliance Boots was 40 per cent higher in 2013-14 than in the prior year, at £90m. Cash taxes paid were also over 50 per cent higher in 2013-14 than those paid in its last year as a publicly listed company. Overall, the total amount of tax paid in the UK, including business rates, national insurance and corporation tax, was around £550m in 2013-14.”