Ashcroft Raises English Eyebrows
Michael Ashcroft raised English eyebrows today when he announced that he had resigned from the British House of Lords, effective immediately. In a statement on his website, Ashcroft says that he can't devote the time to the House of Lords that it requires.
His statements add that his work on opinion polling will continue. Recently, with elections set for May in the UK - Lord Ashcroft's polls have emerged as influential in that country.
He became a member of the House of Lords in the year 2000 - after a hard fought battle to get in, and two rejections. The membership is for life - which has raised questions about why he has resigned.
But one thing we do know is that now that he has resigned, Ashcroft - who retains the title "Lord" - will be able to regain what is known as non-dom status - meaning that for tax purposes, Ashcroft will no longer have to be resident in the UK. He can, for example, list his residence as Belize - which he did up until at least 2004. And, most importantly for the billionaire, as a "non-dom, he would not pay UK taxes on his earnings abroad.
The House of Lords is the upper House in the British Parliament where members are appointed for life by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister. Members are called peers - and in the year 2000 he was criticized because he was a large campaign contributor to then Conservative party Leader, William Hague.
Of course, the immediate question is, if anything this means for his involvement in Belize - particularly in Belizean politics where Ashcroft has been a game changer in at least three general elections. Well, since February, he has been keeping a much higher profile here in Belize - seeming, at times, to be moving very deliberately to bolster his popularity.
He has also indicated that while he did not give the PUP any campaign finance for the municipal election, he would be more inclined to help in the general elections - which, we keep hearing - are less than a year away.
Last week Thursday at the budget debate - UDP member for Belmopan John Saldivar commented on the cagey role Ashcroft is playing with the PUP:...
Hon. John Saldivar
"Dear Lord has not committed yet to providing them with the finances and the only time the People's United Party will have money to fight any election is when Lord Michael Ashcroft decides to give them money. In fact that has been what their leadership musical chairs has been all about. But you see the problem has been that the Lord has not been comfortable with any of them as leader, partly because he doesn't believe that they will do what he wants. But mostly also because that none of them qualify to be prime minister of this country and so he don't want to bet on a losing horse. But 10 years in opposition is long enough and I don't know that the Lord, whether he likes them or not, whether he is comfortable with them or not, he doesn't want to see his desires postponed for much longer and so I do believe the Lord will give you some money."
We know that after staying away for a long time post-2008 - Ashcroft has made very public visits to Belize at least three times in the first quarter of 2015. He has indicated that he expects to become a much more regular presence in Belize in 2015.