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.

Emily Thornberry heckled by Labour MPs as tensions over Trident erupt

Shadow defence secretary's performance at PLP meeting described as "risible" and "cringeworthy". 

"There's no point trying to shout me down" shadow defence secretary Emily Thornberry declared midway through tonight's Parliamentary Labour Party meeting. Even by recent standards, the gathering was remarkably fractious (PLP chair John Cryer at one point threatened to halt it). Addressing MPs and peers for the first time since replacing Maria Eagle, Thornberry's performance did nothing to reassure Trident supporters. 

The Islington South MP, who voted against renewal in 2007, emphasised that the defence review would be "wide-ranging" and did not take a position on the nuclear question. But her colleagues' anger was remorseless. Former shadow defence minister Kevan Jones was one of the first to emerge from Committee Room 14. "Waffly and incoherent, cringeworthy" was his verdict. Another Labour MP told me: "Risible. Appalling. She compared Trident to patrolling the skies with spitfires ... It was embarrassing." A party source said afterwards that Thornberry's "spitfire" remark was merely an observation on changing technology. 

But former first sea lord and security minister Alan West complained that she had failed to understand how the UK's nuclear submarines worked. "Physics, basic physics!" he cried as he left. Asked how the meeting went, Neil Kinnock, who as leader reversed Labour's unilateralist position in 1989, simply let out a belly laugh. Thornberry herself stoically insisted that it was "alright". But a shadow minister told me: "Emily just evidently hadn't put in the work required to be able to credibly address the PLP - totally humiliated. Not by the noise of the hecklers but by the silence of any defenders, no one speaking up for her." 

Labour has long awaited the Europe split currently unfolding among the Tories. But its divide on Trident is far worse. The majority of its MPs are opposed to unilateral disarmament and just seven of the shadow cabinet's 31 members share Jeremy Corbyn's position. While Labour MPs will be given a free vote when the Commons votes on Trident renewal later this year, the battle is on to determine the party's manifesto stance. 

Thornberry will tomorrow address the shadow cabinet and, for the first time this year, Corbyn will attend the next PLP meeting on 22 February. Both will have to contend with a divide which appears unbridgeable. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.