Packets of prescription drugs made by the pharmaceutical firms AstraZeneca and Pfizer on May 7, 2014 in Cambridge. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Labour cheers a victory for the producers over the predators

AstraZeneca rejects Pfizer's final offer for the company. 

Is it all over for Pfizer? The board of AstraZeneca has this morning rejected its final offer of £69.4bn (£55 per share) for the company on the grounds that it fails to recognise its full value.

Chairman Leif Johansson rightly pointed out that Pfizer appeared to be primarily motivated by the tax advantage it would gain from being domiciled in the UK (where corporation tax is 21 per cent compared to the headline US rate of 35 per cent) and had failed to offer adequate guarantees over investment. He said:

Pfizer's approach throughout its pursuit of AstraZeneca appears to have been fundamentally driven by the corporate financial benefits to its shareholders of cost savings and tax minimisation. From our first meeting in January to our latest discussion yesterday, and in the numerous phone calls in between, Pfizer has failed to make a compelling strategic, business or value case. The Board is firm in its conviction as to the appropriate terms to recommend to shareholders.

Provided that AstraZeneca's shareholders choose to approve its decision, the company will survive in its current form.

Labour's criticism of Pfizer's approach, and its threat to block the deal by introducing a new public interest test in May 2015, undoubtedly played a role in stiffening the board's sinews. Chuka Umunna, who grasped the significance of the bid (the largest proposed foreign takeover in British history) from the start, has welcomed AstraZeneca's decision this morning, tweeting that "In the decision of AZ's board we see the long term overcoming the short term, fast buck mentality we need to see less of in UK business" and that "We don't want to see the takeover of great British firms driven by financial engineering - we want them to be driven by long term investment". 

The Tories sought to present Labour's demand for a tougher public interest test as crude state interventionism but it was hard for them to do so when figures such as Michael Heseltine, an economic adviser to the government, and Lord Sainsbury also questioned whether the deal was in the national interest. 

Heseltine called for the introduction of "reserve powers" to protect British companies when assets such as the country's science base are at risk."Foreign takeovers can often be hugely helpful and I have no doctrinal preoccupations - I've done enough takeovers of small businesses myself to know how valuable they can be. But the important point is that every other advanced economy has mechanisms of some sort on a failsafe basis to scrutinise foreign takeovers and we're the only country that doesn't."

As Heseltine said, there is no major western country in which it is easier for a foreign firm to take over a domestic company than the UK. If Britain is to move towards the "responsible capitalism" championed by Miliband, this will need to change. 

By holding out against Pfizer, AstraZeneca has set an important precedent that will deter future predators from seeking to capture more great British companies. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Ukip's Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall. Photo: Getty
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Is the general election 2017 the end of Ukip?

Ukip led the way to Brexit, but now the party is on less than 10 per cent in the polls. 

Ukip could be finished. Ukip has only ever had two MPs, but it held an outside influence on politics: without it, we’d probably never have had the EU referendum. But Brexit has turned Ukip into a single-issue party without an issue. Ukip’s sole remaining MP, Douglas Carswell, left the party in March 2017, and told Sky News’ Adam Boulton that there was “no point” to the party anymore. 

Not everyone in Ukip has given up, though: Nigel Farage told Peston on Sunday that Ukip “will survive”, and current leader Paul Nuttall will be contesting a seat this year. But Ukip is standing in fewer constituencies than last time thanks to a shortage of both money and people. Who benefits if Ukip is finished? It’s likely to be the Tories. 

Is Ukip finished? 

What are Ukip's poll ratings?

Ukip’s poll ratings peaked in June 2016 at 16 per cent. Since the leave campaign’s success, that has steadily declined so that Ukip is going into the 2017 general election on 4 per cent, according to the latest polls. If the polls can be trusted, that’s a serious collapse.

Can Ukip get anymore MPs?

In the 2015 general election Ukip contested nearly every seat and got 13 per cent of the vote, making it the third biggest party (although is only returned one MP). Now Ukip is reportedly struggling to find candidates and could stand in as few as 100 seats. Ukip leader Paul Nuttall will stand in Boston and Skegness, but both ex-leader Nigel Farage and donor Arron Banks have ruled themselves out of running this time.

How many members does Ukip have?

Ukip’s membership declined from 45,994 at the 2015 general election to 39,000 in 2016. That’s a worrying sign for any political party, which relies on grassroots memberships to put in the campaigning legwork.

What does Ukip's decline mean for Labour and the Conservatives? 

The rise of Ukip took votes from both the Conservatives and Labour, with a nationalist message that appealed to disaffected voters from both right and left. But the decline of Ukip only seems to be helping the Conservatives. Stephen Bush has written about how in Wales voting Ukip seems to have been a gateway drug for traditional Labour voters who are now backing the mainstream right; so the voters Ukip took from the Conservatives are reverting to the Conservatives, and the ones they took from Labour are transferring to the Conservatives too.

Ukip might be finished as an electoral force, but its influence on the rest of British politics will be felt for many years yet. 

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