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Boris Johnson, Matt Hancock and Rishi Sunak

Boris Johnson, Matt Hancock and Rishi Sunak. Photo: Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, license linked below article

This Prime Minister personifies the arrogance, sleaze and inability to empathise of the ruling class, writes Sean Ledwith

The Prime Minister's risible attempt this week at an apology for his egregious conduct regarding Downing Street parties has rightly incurred the fury of millions of people throughout the country. Speaking at PMQs, he stuck to his ridiculous argument that the infamous party on 20 May 2020 was a work event. For the many who were bereaved on or around that date, Johnson’s half-hearted apology was insulting and only added to their sense of grief.

Thin laughter

Actor Rory Kinnear remembers the date with particular pain as it was the one he buried his disabled sister who died of Covid. Like most decent people, he had stuck to the rules and organised a socially distanced funeral with less attendees than the family would have ideally wanted. Kinnear is now devastated to learn the supposed national leadership was contemptuous of the restrictions:

"Just under two miles separates my corner of London from the garden of Downing Street. I am, today, haunted by the tinkling of those glasses there on that sun-drenched night, the echoing of their thin laughter, the stifled chuckles as they practised their imagined denials and, most perniciously, the leadership that encouraged it to happen. Their actions feel like direct assaults in the face of my family’s, and all of our shared national, tragedy"

Venal Insidious Parasites

A High Court verdict this week exposed another aspect of the venality of this appalling government-the infamous VIP lane for the procurement of personal protective equipment during the peak of the first wave of the pandemic in 2020. The case against the Tories' handling of the issue had been brought by two pressure groups, the Good Law Project and EveryDoctor, who rightly wanted to draw attention to how a combination of government sleaze and private sector greed had short-circuited the legal principle of equal treatment for suppliers at the height of the crisis. This involved billions of pounds of government contracts being handed out in clear breach of accepted practice to companies with strong connections to ministers or prominent Tory party members. Mrs Justice O’Farrell commented in her written judgement:

"There is evidence that opportunities were treated as high priority even where there were no objectively justifiable grounds for expediting the offer. The claimants have established that operation of the high priority lane was in breach of the obligation of equal treatment under the PCR (public contract regulations) … the illegality is marked by this judgment."

Dodgy deals

Her words represent a damning indictment of this aspect of the wider Tory bungling of the pandemic. The dodgy contracts amounted to 32 billion items of personal protective equipment to a value of £14 billion. Two private sector providers were at the heart of the scandal, PestFix and Ayanda. The judge noted that Matt Hancock, the then Health Secretary, had unlawfully conferred preferential treatment on these firms by allocating them to the so-called high priority lane for the awarding of contracts. Apart from the nefarious manner of the original procurement, Farrell also commented on the sub-standard nature of the equipment involved, with the masks and gowns provided by PestFix being deemed to be inappropriate and those from Ayanda similarly not being distributed.

Public pain, private gain

Jo Maugham from the Good Law Project welcomed the verdict and commented:

"Good Law Project revealed the red carpet-to-riches VIP lane for those with political connections in October 2020. And the court has now held that, unsurprisingly, the lane was illegal. Never again should any government treat a public health crisis as an opportunity to enrich its associates and donors at public expense."

Johnson’s disgusting addiction to lying and his government’s inclination to bend legality are both symptomatic of a degenerate elite that continue to inflict untold suffering on the British people. The day this corrupt cabal is driven out of power will definitely be one, with a collective clear conscience, for a national party to bring your own booze.

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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 negotiator. Sean is also a regular contributor to Marx and Philosophy Review of Books and Culture Matters

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