The BBC press office has apologised for smearing James Dyson as a Tory who sleazily lobbied for tax advantages:
We accept that Sir James Dyson is not a prominent Conservative supporter as was stated in some of our coverage of his text messages with the Prime Minister. The James Dyson Foundation made a charitable gift to support the Wiltshire Engineering Festival for school children. We accept that this does not signal affiliation to any political party and we would like to put the record straight. Sir James also raised concerns about the accuracy of other aspects of our reporting. We wish to make clear that Sir James contacted Number 10 in response to the Prime Minister’s direct request to him for assistance in relation to the urgent need for ventilators and incurred costs of £20 million which his company voluntarily absorbed in trying to assist in the national emergency. His text messages to the Prime Minister were also later sent to officials. We are sorry that these facts were not always reflected in our coverage, and we apologise for not doing so.
In response, Sir James Dyson said
“The BBC now acknowledges that it was wrong and has issued an apology – which I accept. To justify its claim that I am a “prominent Conservative supporter” the BBC shamefully twisted our charitable gift to school children to suit their political narrative. The Prime Minister asked Dyson to help at a time of crisis, in the national interest, and we did just that. We dropped everything and focused on the national effort. Far from any gain, the project cost us £20 million – a sum we voluntarily bore. I am proud of the efforts of every Dyson person who contributed and we would do precisely the same again. It was deeply disappointing, for me and for the hundreds of Dyson people who gave it their all, to have our efforts developing an emergency ventilator mischaracterised
and used for political mudslinging.”
That famous BBC objective impartiality funded by coercion…
During a PMQs row over this morning’s Dyson texts story, Boris told Starmer he should listen to Blair’s words on the topic; that he finds “it hard to get worked up about this… there’s got to be a certain degree of understanding.” Starmer did end up emulating Blair, rounding off his weak Commons outing with the obviously scripted line – “sleaze, sleaze, sleaze” – an unmistakable parody of Blair’s infamous “weak, weak, weak” attack on John Major. Starmer’s impersonation of Blair is best forgotten…
This morning the BBC reveal texts between the PM and James Dyson, in which Boris promised to “fix” a tax issue to prevent Dyson’s employees having to pay extra if they came here to make Covid ventilators during what was a national emergency. The Treasury changed the rules to mean any days worked by foreign employees towards the national Covid effort wouldn’t be counted by HMRC between March and June 2020. Only an hysterical partisan would take issue with this, here’s Labour’s line this morning;
“These are jaw-dropping revelations. Boris Johnson is now front and centre of the biggest lobbying scandal in a generation, and Tory sleaze has reached the heart of Downing Street.”
A gigantic volte-face given Labour repeatedly praised the ventilator response – a response the tax changes aimed to bolster. The changes were openly put to parliament and applied to non-tax-resident doctors and engineers who would otherwise have had negative tax implications for helping in the fight against Covid. VAT and customs duties on vital medical equipment were also waived. In April 2020, Rachel Reeves said the government needed to “strain every sinew and utilise untapped resources in UK manufacturing, to deliver essential equipment to frontline workers”. A week later, Starmer praised everyone involved in the effort to get ventilators:
The Ventilator Challenge is an example of how UK manufacturers, a world class workforce and @unitetheunion have come together to provide our NHS with the vital equipment it urgently needs. Well done to everyone involved. https://t.co/7u9vhQrDVc— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) March 30, 2020
Just last month, Anneliese Dodds admitted the government had worked with manufacturers to deliver the “seemingly impossible, to record time” on ventilator production. Something their holier-than-thou anti-‘crony’ position would have prevented.
This latest accusation of sleaze is a misstep by Labour. As Tony Blair told Today this morning, “I find it hard to get worked up about this… there’s got to be a certain degree of understanding.”
Most people will think it was good of Dyson to put up £20 million and hundreds of his staff on to the project at short notice and no cost to the taxpayer. They will think it fair that those who came to our aid were not punished by the taxman for helping. There are some genuine questions about cronyism to be answered when it comes to the supply of PPE, some of which may well be answered with criminal charges. If Labour starts making weak accusations that don’t stack up they will start sounding like the boy who cried wolf…
After a five-year legal battle, James Dyson has finally succeeded in his long-running legal battle to get the EU’s top court to strike down their absurd regulation that vacuum cleaners should be tested… without dust. The regulation enabled Dyson’s German competitors to market their vacuum cleaners with superior energy labelling, despite the fact that their performance dropped significantly as soon as their bags contained dust. That is, as soon as they were used…
The ruling means the EU will now have to go back and design a regulation that means that test are carried out “as close as possible to actual conditions of use”. A rare victory for common sense in the EU…
Dyson: I think Britain is putting forward very positive suggestions and they’re not being reciprocated by the other side. But that doesn’t particularly surprise me and I suspect that we’ll have to leave without a deal and that we’ll have to trade under WTO regulations which frankly are going to hurt the Europeans more than they hurt the British.
BBC: Would they not hurt your business?
Dyson: Not at all actually, we already pay the WTO tariff into Europe and it hasn’t hurt us at all… It’s quite wrong to call it a single market. It’s a series of different markets with different languages, different marketing required and different laws, and in our case different plugs and different boxes. So we don’t view it as a single market, it’s actually a very highly complex and broken up market… The rest of the world is growing at a far greater rate than Europe so the opportunity is to export to the rest of the world and to capitalise on that.
People are being told WTO rules would be the end of the world. The government could do more to explain why it isn’t…