A Tory MP who has spearheaded opposition to lockdowns as part of a backbench group trying to influence government policy told investors in the venture capital company he chairs that the unwinding of pandemic restrictions was boosting the company’s business and their investments.
Jonathan Djanogly, who is part of the Covid Recovery Group of Tory MPs, wrote to investors in September in his “second job” as chairman of Pembroke VCT plc, a venture capital trust specialising in investment in the hospitality sector.
In a prospectus letter sent out to investors as Pembroke launched a new share offer aimed at raising up to £60m, Djanogly wrote: “Whilst the social and economic challenges of Covid‑19 will continue for the medium term, the unwinding of government restrictions have begun to have a positive impact across the company’s portfolio of businesses.”
In November last year Djanogly joined the Covid Recovery Group of Tory backbenchers who emerged to oppose future lockdowns and put pressure on Boris Johnson.
During a speech in parliament on 4 November 2020, as pressure against a second lockdown was being built up by Tory MPs, Djanogly told of “speaking to businesses”.
“We now roll from one lockdown to another, with no vaccine, and no effective track-and-trace system. We need urgently to consider a weighted strategy, our objectives here accepting that whatever happens, lockdown or no lockdown, we are ultimately going to have to learn to live with the virus,” he said.
Djanogly said he would not agree with a suggestion, by the Guardian, that he had been vigorously attempting to influence government policy by opposing lockdowns.
“I have been assessing proposed Covid legislation on a case-by-case basis and, in the majority of cases, I have supported government proposals,” he said.
“Your attempt to connect my voting record to the view taken in the Pembroke VCT prospectus is wrong. Nearly every sector of the economy will benefit from the return to work. That is simply recording a statement of fact and unrelated to my personal views, whatever they may be.”
His second job – for which he is being paid £30,000 for 32 hours’ work a year, according to his declaration to the register of members’ financial interests – came under the spotlight at the weekend when it was reported that Pembroke had benefited from NHS Covid contracts.
The Daily Mail reported that it had a stake in Thriva, which picked up government contracts worth £186m, according to the data analysts Tussell.
He told the Guardian: “As regards Thriva, I can advise you that at no point did I lobby for, or discuss Thriva or any of its contracts with, any ministers or their departments of state.”
In 2011, while serving as a justice minister, Djanogly was stripped of his responsibility to regulate firms that “ambulance chase” the public, following a Guardian investigation that revealed how he and his family could profit from controversial changes to legal aid he was piloting in parliament.
Djanogly, the heir to a £300m family business, had failed to declare that his then teenage children were minority shareholders in his brother-in-law’s businesses, two firms that advertised claims and were part of an industry that Djanogly regulated in government.