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Tory #PPE outsourcing scandal isn’t a blunder or cock up – Sean Waters, Sussex Uni Labour Club

“When the government should have been procuring quality PPE and ventilators, they first had to ensure that a few companies, with connections to the Conservative Party” “had access to a V.I.P lane” to give them an unfair advantage in the bidding process.”

Sean Waters

By Sean Waters, Sussex University Labour Club Chair.

In my last article I pointed out the folly in focusing our attention on Tory incompetence over the failure of their economic model. This argument is strengthened greatly by each revelation regarding blatant cronyism at the heart of government.

This isn’t a blunder, or a cock up. Whilst other countries implemented strict lockdown measures and developed rigorous testing systems, in Britain whilst ordinary people died alone in unprotected care homes, large parts of the Establishment were already asking but one crucial question- how can our class profit from this?

This conclusion is not the result of any conjecture on my part – when the government should have been procuring quality PPE and ventilators, they first had to ensure that a few companies, with connections to the Conservative Party” “had access to a V.I.P lane” to give them an unfair advantage in the bidding process.

And in this at least, they had remarkable success. Of contracts worth $22 billion the New York Times reported that “$11 billion went to companies either run by friends and associates of politicians in the Conservative Party, or with no prior experience or a history of controversy”.

We must not allow this scandal to be reduced to sensationalist headlines or let consensus dictate that this arose from a few individuals acting in bad faith. If cronyism of this scale were to happen in any country across the global south, we would not see labels such as “chumocracy”. We should call it what it is – corruption.

This government failure comes with a cost. If your primary concern when allocating government contracts is their relation to your family, rather than their ability to produce and distribute a product, the public pay the price.

$11 billion of hardworking taxpayers’ money. This figure should be held against the Tories every time they declare that that there is no magic money tree.  We were told £20 million a week on free school meals was too much and for the first time ever we see UNICEF forced step in to feed hungry children; the fact is when their wealthy mates came calling, they had no issue paying up. If Britain’s “credit card was really maxed out” as Laura Kuenessburg claims, then surely the government would be meticulously searching for those companies best able to fulfil contractual responsibilities, and secure through tough negotiations the best price.

I have to say that there is nothing uniquely Conservative about corruption and each passing news story of Starmer’s lust for wealthy backers suggests a ‘Labour’ government could be beholden to similar malign interests. At a time when Sir Keir is attempting to establish himself and articulate a vision for the future, the last thing the leadership needs is to be tarred with the “they’re all the same” or “only in it for themselves” brushes- which for all its flaws, the Corbyn project could never have been accused of.

What should socialists do? We must mirror the solidarity displayed by the establishment, millionaires and billionaires are never confused as to where their loyalties lie; we should take inspiration from this sentiment and remember it wasn’t us who made this about class.

The Tories will pick the interests of capital every time, but Labour doesn’t have to do the same. Our party should empower its members and trade unions – working class people need to have confidence that our party represents labour not capital, and that when push comes to shove demonstrates it puts people before profit.

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