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Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson, Photo: Pippa Fowles / No 10 Downing Street / cropped from original / licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, linked at bottom of article

The overdue departure of Dominic Cummings will not change the incompetence and corruption at the heart of this Tory government, writes Sean Ledwith

Supporters of the Prime Minister’s increasingly precarious looking government moved quickly over the weekend to cauterise the wound opened by the sensational departure of Dominic Cummings. As the malign intelligence at the heart of the Downing Street machine walked out of Number 10 memorably clutching a cardboard box on Friday night, apologists for Johnson were falling over each other in the race to proclaim a so-called reset of his administration.

Cabinet members Matt Hancock, Robert Jenrick and George Eustice have popped up with annoying regularity over the past few days with apparent instructions from whoever is now running the PMs office to drop the word reset into every other sentence. Johnson was clearly intending to use today’s unveiling of his supposed Green New Deal as the launchpad for the post-Cummings era.

Negligence in Number 10

With tragicomic mistiming, however, he was forced into isolation on Monday thanks to an evidently non-covid secure meeting with some of his MPs over the weekend. Pictures have since emerged of Johnson standing side by side with Lee Anderson MP and five other parliamentarians inside Number 10. Neither man is wearing a mask and they appear to be less than the required two metres apart. The image is yet another encapsulation of the criminally inept management of the pandemic which has now led the UK to have the worst death rate in Europe.

Johnson’s negligence in this situation underlines how shallow all the talk of a reset is. The truth that no-one in the Tory party is willing to publiclyaccept is that Johnson is simply not fit for national leadership. Even before becoming PM, his well-documented record as a charlatan, liar and amoral opportunistmeans he is incapable of providing the calibre of command control required to deal with a crisis on this scale.

Dodgy deals in Downing Street

The corruption at the heart of this calamitous administration has also been exposed again this week with revelations aboutdodgy dealing in the purchase of Personal Protective Equipment. A National Audit Office investigation has brought to light how over £10 billion worth of contracts for PPE were fast-tracked on the basis of recommendations by government ministers and Tory MPs. One of these companies that received preferential treatment is Public First which has close links to the execrable Cummings and his former political boss, Michael Gove. This group is co-run by James Frayne, one of the authors of last year’s Tory manifesto.

The NAO report criticised how the lack of competitive tendering in this process seriously risked the quality of provision:  By asking forwork to be delivered without a formal contract, risks such as underperformance are increased. Other cases of highly dubious contracts include PPE Medpro, formerly run by Tory peer Michelle Mone receiving £122 million and £50 million for Recruitment UK which includes Lord Chadlington (Tory of course) on its board. Meg Hillier, Chair of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, has similarly accused the Johnson admiration of ripping up the rules on procurement and created a high priority lane to accommodate their corporate cronies. Alongside the well-publicised fiasco of the track and trace system mismanaged by wife of Tory MP Dido Harding, the stench of blood-soaked corruption over this government is too strong for any reset to put right.

Dark, frightening storm

As infections and fatalities inexorably rise in this second wave of the pandemic, the inadequacy of Johnson’s current botched lockdown has been highlighted by a plea from Hull Council to close the local schools. City Council leader Stephen Brady has written to the Department for Education pleading for authorisation to move to an online or blended learning models as classrooms in the area are being ravaged by the virus at what he describes as a terrifying rate with schools identified as the principal drivers of this resurgence. Another council member has denounced the failure of the DFE to acknowledge the crisis in the classrooms:

“This is a dark, frightening storm and we need to act fast, and here we have headteachers with hundreds of years of experience between them asking for greater flexibility for the good not just of their schools but of their wider communities too, and that is being point blank turned down by people in London who do not appear to grasp what is happening.”

Tragically for the whole country, the ‘people in London who do not grasp what is happening’ include a Prime Minister who has learnt nothing form the first wave of the virus. For all our sakes, Johnson is the next person we desperately need to see walking out of Number 10 for good carrying a cardboard box.

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Sean Ledwith

Sean Ledwith

Sean Ledwith is a Counterfire member and Lecturer in History at York College, where he is also UCU branch secretary. Sean is also a regular contributor to Marx and Philosophy Review of Books and Culture Matters

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