Opinion

A morally corrupt government?

The ‘fashion conscious’ Chancellor, Rishi Sunak Photo from creative commons
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The Chancellor, fixated on his own image and the Prime Minister, preoccupied with paying for an opulent £200K redecoration of his Number 10 flat is only the start. The Justice Secretary wants to restrict peaceful protests and the Health Secretary has handed out PPE contracts to a mate. But the icing on the cake is now rewarding nurses with a pay cut in real terms. What type of a country do we live in when our politicians cannot be trusted and when they govern just for the privileged few and where nobody else seems to matter?

The Daily Mail, usually close to the Tory Party and its values, has been running a whole series of highly damaging and salacious stories about the Prime Minister and his Fiancée Carrie Symonds. The seemingly insatiable desire by Carrie, allegedly the most powerful woman in the UK according to multiple press reports, to redecorate the 10 Downing Street flat where they live is admirable. But the highly scurrilous stories are demeaning and insulting to the office of Prime Minister and to the nation. There is a definite whiff of sleaze about these stories as they allege that a charity was to be set to fund this extravagant refurbishment project and that a cover up was being attempted to hide the true nature of the costs.  Friendly Tory donors are being mentioned in ways that imply a scandal and wrongdoings. These stories have gained considerable traction in other newspapers and the denials have been very weak indeed.

According to Downing Street insiders, the Daily Mail claims, cash for the makeover was channelled via a tangled web which involved:

  • A payment of around £60,000 from Tory party coffers to the Cabinet Office, which is responsible for maintaining Downing Street, to pay for expensive items
  • A payment of the same amount from Lord Brownlow to Conservative HQ to reimburse the party
  • A plan by Tory chiefs to state publicly that the £60,000 came not from party HQ or Lord Brownlow, but from a newly established ‘Downing Street Trust’.

The Prime minister’s personal food arrangements also attracted their attention. The Daily Mail reports that Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds have dined in style during the pandemic – thanks to a secret £12,500 gourmet food supply provided by a business owned by the family of a billionaire Tory donor. They have had around 30 giant boxes of shopping and up to 100 prepared meals from a luxury organic food store ‘smuggled in’ to Downing Street via the rear entrance.

The deliveries are from the Daylesford organic farm shop company, owned by Lady Bamford, wife of JCB construction tycoon Lord Bamford, whose family has given millions to the Conservative Party.

Both stories from this tabloid newspaper illustrate so well just how aloof and out of touch our Prime Minister is, with millions unemployed and food bank usage at record highs. It is insulting to the millions of people just about managing to survive with so many others on furlough and potentially facing the loss of their homes and jobs.

And there are other examples of the sheer opulence and grandeur that is the hallmark of this Tory government. The Chancellor’s PR team has let us know that his shirts are customised skin-tight and handcrafted, each costing £160 and his ankle skimming suits cost £1,300. So, while we will all have to tighten our own belts following multiple tax rises, he clearly is not willing to lead by example. His spin machine’s eight-minute personal video released just before the Budget was ridiculed by the leader of the Labour Party in his formal response in the house. Does Sunak have an ambition to become Prime Minister?

The Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick MP allocated £25m in grant  funds to a town in his own constituency signed off by a junior minister in his own department. Mr Jenrick has featured in an earlier article in NE Bylines covering alleged bias in these grant awards and favouritism towards a Tory donor who he managed to save £40m by accelerating a decision in favour of him.

 Our fashion-conscious Chancellor has come under considerable scrutiny from the Financial Times and the BBC over his allocation of a new £1 billion new Towns Fund announced in the recent Budget. The Chancellor seems determined to follow the lead given by Mr Jenrick is how to allocate taxpayers money.  Both media organisations queried the criteria used to decide on what areas got the awards. The Financial Times concluded the bias was “Pretty blatant“ in favour of Tory seats.

The BBC has published the full list of the towns to benefit (see below). Perhaps poverty and depravation were on the criteria but precious few areas in the North East seem to benefit, receiving only £46 million out of one billion funds. The treasury and number 10, after considerable media and pressure from the Labour Party, have now published the criteria used.

New town deals and amount per region

North East: Middlesbrough; Thornaby-On-Tees – £46m

North West: Preston; Workington; Bolton; Cheadle; Carlisle; Leyland; Southport; Rochdale – £211m

Yorkshire and the Humber: Wakefield; Whitby; Scarborough; Grimsby; Castleford; Goldthorpe; Scunthorpe; Morley; Stocksbridge – £199m

East Midlands: Newark; Clay Cross; Skegness; Mablethorpe; Boston; Lincoln; Northampton; Staveley; Mansfield – £175m

West Midlands: Wolverhampton; Kidsgrove; Rowley Regis; Smethwick; West Bromwich; Burton-upon-Trent; Nuneaton – £155m

East of England: Lowestoft; Colchester; Stevenage; Great Yarmouth; Ipswich; Milton Keynes – £148m

South East: Crawley; Margate – £43m

South West: Swindon; Bournemouth – £41m

Moving on from high fashion and lavish décor to more fundamental aspects of democracy; the new policing bill attempts to limit the right to peaceful protest even including noise restrictions. Surely noise is expected at protests?

All of these examples (and more) are major government failures. They show a preoccupation with spin and image, a lack of transparency and a sense that the government is only for the few and privileged. While we might expect this from a Tory elitist government led by Eton and Oxbridge boys, it beggars belief that our NHS staff, those amazing nurses and health workers are effectively being given a pay cut.

 Can we really have any sort of social justice and a fair society under a Tory government?

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