Controversial Connection: Tory MP Brandon Lewis Earns £250,000 Moonlighting at Firm with Sanctioned Russian Ownership
In a revelation sparking controversy, Tory MP Sir Brandon Lewis is reportedly earning a staggering £250,000 annually through his involvement with a company partially owned by two sanctioned Russian oligarchs. The former Conservative Party Chairman, who currently holds five paid positions outside of Parliament, is said to be receiving a total of £400,000 from these roles, in addition to his £86,584 parliamentary salary as the MP for Great Yarmouth.
Sir Brandon's most recent appointment as a senior adviser for investment firm LetterOne has drawn attention, as the company's founders, Mikhail Fridman and Petr Aven, were included in the UK's sanctions list following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Despite their ownership stakes being frozen, the billionaire businessmen still retain approximately half of the company's shares. Sir Brandon has disclosed his £250,000 salary from this position in the Commons register of interests.
Apart from his role at LetterOne, Sir Brandon receives an annual payment of £60,000 from Thakeham Homes, another £60,000 from transport company FM Conway, and £30,000 as an adviser to Civitas Investment Management. In his capacity as the director of Woodlands Schools, he also enjoys the use of a company car valued at £10,000 per year.
The Labour Party Chair, Anneliese Dodds, expressed concern over MPs holding multiple outside jobs, especially when one involves working for a company linked to sanctioned Russian individuals. Dodds emphasized the need for political reforms, advocating for a ban on second jobs for MPs. She stated, "Great Yarmouth deserves better than a part-time MP making eye-watering sums from outside jobs."
Sir Brandon, who has been an MP since 2010 and has previously served as Party Chairman, Northern Ireland Secretary, and Justice Secretary, resigned from the Cabinet when Rishi Sunak assumed the role of Prime Minister. Defending his role at LetterOne, Sir Brandon highlighted the company's evolution since the sanctions, asserting its separation from its sanctioned founders and its focus on socially impactful investments, including being a major corporate donor to aid efforts in Ukraine. He expressed optimism about contributing to LetterOne's commitment to outstanding governance and sustainable business growth. Notably, LetterOne's portfolio includes the health foods retailer Holland & Barrett.
In conclusion, Sir Brandon Lewis's involvement with a firm linked to sanctioned Russian oligarchs has ignited a debate about the ethical implications of MPs holding lucrative positions outside of Parliament. The revelation of his £250,000 annual earnings from LetterOne, coupled with additional incomes from multiple roles, has drawn criticism from the Labour Party, with Chair Anneliese Dodds calling for a ban on second jobs for MPs.
The controversy underscores broader concerns about transparency, potential conflicts of interest, and the need for reforms in the political landscape. Sir Brandon's defense of his role at LetterOne, citing the company's transformation and commitment to societal investments, contrasts with the Labour Party's insistence that such arrangements are unacceptable.
As discussions surrounding the role of MPs in external ventures continue, the controversy surrounding Sir Brandon Lewis sheds light on the challenges and ethical considerations inherent in the intersection of politics and private business. The call for cleaner politics and stricter regulations on outside employment for parliamentarians reflects a growing demand for accountability and a reevaluation of the boundaries between public service and private interests.