- Boris Johnson campaign links to lobbyists have come under scrutiny after he announced plans to halt the “explosion” of “sin taxes” on sugar and other items.
- Johnson’s campaign said there were questions about the effectiveness of taxes on tobacco and sugar.
- Senior members of Johnson’s campaign have ties to the soft drinks and tobacco industries.
- Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth says Johnson has “serious questions to answer about the role of corporate lobbyists for the drinks and tobacco industry in his campaign.”
- Following Labour’s intervention, Johnson’s campaign insisted tobacco taxation would be excluded from the review.
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LONDON – Boris Johnson is under pressure to reveal his campaign’s links to the soft drinks and tobacco industries after he announced plans to cut “sin taxes” if he becomes prime minister.
The frontrunner to replace Theresa May as Conservative Party leader, announced on Wednesday that he would halt the “explosion” of “stealth sin taxes” in recent years.
His campaign said there were “serious questions” about whether taxes on items, such as sugary drinks and tobacco were effective or whether they merely hurt poorer consumers.
“The recent proposal for a tax on milkshakes seems to me to clobber those who can least afford it,” Johnson said in a statement.
“If we want people to lose weight and live healthier lifestyles, we should encourage people to walk, cycle and generally do more exercise. Rather than just taxing people more, we should look at how effective the so-called ‘sin taxes’ really are, and if they actually change behaviour.”
However, following the announcement, The Times revealed links between Johnson’s campaign and the soft drinks industry.
One of Johnson’s advisers and former spokesman, Will Walden, is employed by the lobbyists Edelman, which has worked for Coca-Cola.
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Johnson’s campaign also questioned the effectiveness of taxes on smoking.
They insisted that he remained committed to reducing smoking, but said that the government’s policies on tax should be based on evidence.
One of Johnson’s senior advisers is Mark Fullbrook, who co-founded CTF Partners with Johnson’s former campaign chief Lynton Crosby. CTF has previously done work for the American tobacco company Philip Morris.
In 2014, The Guardian reported that Fullbrook asked the Conservative politician Sir Robert Atkins to seek answers from the UK government relating to Ireland’s planned introduction of plain packaging for cigarettes.
However, following the announcement on Wednesday, sources in Johnson’s campaign appeared to U-turn on their announcement and insisted that tobacco would not be included in any review.
Johnson said on Wednesday that Brexit would allow the government to change course on tax policy.
“Once we leave the EU on 31 October, we will have a historic opportunity to change the way politics is done in this country. A good way to start would be basing tax policy on clear evidence,” Johnson said in a statement.
The opposition Labour party said that Johnson had “serious questions to answer” about his campaign’s links to lobbyists.
“This is extraordinary even by Boris Johnson’s standards,” Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said.
“On the same day that Cancer Research UK is warning of the rising cancer threat of obesity, and with own cheer leader Matt Hancock supporting a plan to strengthen the obesity strategy, Johnson wants to water down the strategy to tackle it.”
“He has serious questions to answer about the role of corporate lobbyists for the drinks and tobacco industry in his campaign. Boris Johnson has shown that his priority is representing the interests of his wealthy supporters, with no concern for the health and wellbeing of the general public.”
A spokesperson for Johnson’s campaign was contacted for comment.