The Left needs to lead the fight against Covid Corruption – Richard Burgon MP


“It’s sickening that a deep social crisis has been used as a money-making scheme for the mates of Tory Ministers and their super-rich donors. Over £800 million in Covid contracts went to donors who’d given the Tories £8m.”

Richard Burgon MP,

Highlighting the actions of “the most corrupt government in modern history,” Richard Burgon MP shows that tacking rampant Tory cronyism must be a priority for the left.

For millions of people, this pandemic has been a time of extreme hardship and suffering, the scale of which many of us have never seen before in our lives.  

Over 150,000 families have lost loved ones. Others are struggling with Long Covid or on growing hospital waiting lists made worse by the government’s botched Covid response. 

At the same time, many who were unable to make ends meet before this crisis following a decade of stagnating wages and slashed services have now fallen into even deeper poverty. 

But it’s been a very good crisis for some. British billionaires increased their wealth by over £100 billion over the past year.  

It’s also been a good crisis for outsourcing giants such as Serco who have pocketed vast sums of money for essential public health measures like Test and Trace that should have gone to our public services. And it’s been a good crisis for those with friends in high places in the Conservative Party who got their hands on huge Covid contracts.

The one sure-fire way to make money over the last 18 months has been to be a mate of a Tory Minister. Access to the government’s so-called ‘VIP’ lane for contracts made you ten-times more likely to win public contracts.

It’s sickening that a deep social crisis has been used as a money-making scheme for the mates of Tory Ministers and their super-rich donors. Over £800 million in Covid contracts went to donors who’d given the Tories £8m. That’s a very good return for those in the know. 

It also offers a real insight into how our rigged system works. Super-rich donors hand over huge funds and expect public contracts and favours to come their way in return. It should stop. Businesses that make political donations should be banned from getting a single penny in government contracts.

We have also seen Ministers found to have acted unlawfully following excellent work by the Good Law Project. And a world leading anti-corruption body Transparency International says 1 in 5 Government Covid contracts have corruption red flags.

Given all this, no wonder that polls show that huge swathes of the population believe that the Government is corrupt. And I am one of them – I think this Tory Government is the most corrupt government in modern history. 

With the Government using this crisis to boost the coffers of super-rich donors through covid contracts, it presumes that everyone else is operating like this too. Government Ministers have admitted they’re refusing proper sick pay to people because they think that people would “game” the system. Tory Ministers should have more respect for working class people. They’re better and more decent than Tory Ministers.

The stench of corruption has grown ever stronger over the past year – but the deep concerns over how big money donations skew our democracy don’t start or end there. One in three billionaires has donated more than £50 million to the Tory Party since 2005 and they do so for a reason. 

I recently participated in a nauseating debate in parliament about why four years on from Grenfell, the government continues to drag its feet on delivering the protections leaseholders need. 

In that debate I pointed out that since Grenfell developers who built flats with unsafe cladding have donated £2.5 MILLION to the Conservatives. And that a new report shows that £1 in every £5 donated to the Conservative Party since 2010 came from those with substantial interests in the housing market.

So I doubt it’s a coincidence that Conservative MPs have then voted time after time to block amendments to protect leaseholders from the cost of removing dangerous cladding.

Of course, we even have a Housing secretary who admitted to unlawfully signing off a £1bn housing project. The timing of that decision meant a Conservative Party donor avoided paying around £40m. 

The link between big money and establishment politics has been exposed more than ever throughout this crisis. This Covid corruption and dodgy contracts lift the lid on how our society is run not for the interests of the majority but for a tiny majority. 

But there is a danger that undermining confidence in our democratic system like this actually boosts the right-wing. It leaves people thinking nothing can change and politics isn’t worth it. 

We can’t allow that. Hope is a necessary precondition for change. The Left needs to lead the fight to clear up our politics as part of creating a political system that serves the many, not the few. 

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