UNHEALTHY RELATIONSHIP: Boris Johnson accepted award funded by US private health firms

At an American Enterprise Institute event last year, Boris Johnson told billionaire private health firm owners they would “work together” on “pro-competitive policies”.

Boris Johnson accepted an award funded by American private health firms and promised to “work together” with US firms to deliver “pro-competitive policies” after Brexit.

The American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a US pro-market think tank, presented Johnson with its Irving Kristol Award for “notable intellectual or practical contributions to improved public policy and social welfare” at a black-tie dinner in Washington last September where multi-millionaire businessmen dined on pepita-crusted pacific salmon and drank wine from California’s Napa valley.

The AEI has typically kept its funding secret, but a programme for its awards dinner in honour of Boris Johnson listed dozens of American businessmen and corporations who backed the event. The institute has since removed the programme from its website, but it is reproduced in full below.

The event, also reported on by Private Eye, included private healthcare provider Gilead Sciences, drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline and Aetna, a US private health insurer that manages over 5,700 hospitals. Altria Client Services, the parent company of tobacco company Philip Morris International, was also a sponsor.

Donald Trump and his ambassador to the UK Woody Johnson have both said that the NHS must be “on the table” in negotiations over a future US-UK trade deal.

Charles Koch, a billionaire oil magnate said to be the 11th richest man in the world, was also listed as a sponsor of the dinner. Koch funds a web of right-wing think tanks and projects around the world, including the UK blog Spiked that regularly defends far-right figures and rails against “climate scaremongering”. Indeed, one such project named The Donors Trust is itself a sponsor of the AEI and has previously donated funding to America’s controversial National Rifle Association.

Other backers include accountants KPMG and Grant Thornton, oil companies Chevron and Exxon Mobil, financiers Richard Roeder and Michael Fouritcq, defence conglomerate Lockheed Martin and Facebook. A foundation belonging to Paul Singer, a billionaire ‘vulture capitalist’ reported to be buying UK businesses to take advantage of a weaker pound, is listed as a co-chair.

Johnson decided to forego a speech in favour of an interview with the AEI’s president Arthur Brooks, a right-wing intellectual who earned $2.2 million a year working for the organisation last year. Johnson praised the AEI as a “very, very important institution” and said he “followed the work of AEI scholars and people associated with this body for many, many years.”

Johnson also hailed “the great achievements of the Thatcher era”. Speaking about Brexit, he told the audience of American millionaires that it would mean Britain was “able to campaign for pro-competitive policies. That’s the opportunity. And I hope very much that with you guys, with America, we can work together to deliver that agenda.”

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