Kim Johnson MP: Tory sleaze? Call it what it is – corruption

'This is not merely a few instances of dodgy behaviour. This is an entrenched culture of corruption and acting with impunity.'

Boris Johnson Tory corruption

Kim Johnson is Labour MP for Liverpool Riverside

Tory cronyism has been very prevalent for the past 18 months, this government have given fast-tracked Covid-contracts to its mates and families without any of the usual checks or balances.

However, as a new parliamentarian, I’ve not witnessed such naked corruption as I did last week when the Prime Minister attempted to protect one of his own from being suspended for breaking the rules on paid lobbying.

The government’s motion to tear up the current rules on Parliamentary standards – and effectively make the government of the day the judge and jury on MP’s behaviour – passed by only 18 votes. 22 Tories who have come under scrutiny from the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards – including three currently under investigation – helped it over the line.

If this wasn’t bad enough,  the reports that the Prime Minister threatened his MPs with losing funding for their constituencies if they didn’t toe the line, just adds to this sleaze.

Coercion by the highest office to cover up corruption is an utter disgrace.

Boris Johnson himself has already been investigated by the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner more than any other MP in the past three years, and has previously faced sanctions for breaching parliamentary rules regarding his financial interests.

This is not merely a few instances of dodgy behaviour. This is an entrenched culture of corruption and acting with impunity. Last week’s vote was meant to mark a significant step towards the normalisation of paid lobbying in Parliament. We made sure they didn’t get away with it.

So why did the government so shamelessly attempt to rewrite the rules regarding cash for access in broad daylight, in a risky attempt to get one of their own off the hook? It’s simple. They thought they could get away with it.

The watchword of this government from the get-go has been corruption. That this disgraceful affair has come about in an attempt by the government to cover up the kind of corruption that we’ve seen throughout the Covid crisis tells us everything we need to know about the depth of contempt the Tories have for the constituents and country they are supposed to serve.

The now-former MP and Cabinet Minister Owen Paterson was found guilty of breaking cash-for-access rules after he received £100,000 per year from two firms that went on to win hundreds of millions of pounds worth of Covid contracts – despite clear evidence they were not up to the job.

His story is a clear breach of the rules against paid Parliamentary lobbying. But how many more crony contracts has this government allocated? Over the last year, we have seen the previous Health Secretary agreeing a Covid test kit contract with his pub landlord via WhatsApp. We have seen revelations that a fifth of UK Covid contracts raised red flags for corruption. Twenty-seven PPE or testing contracts worth £2.1 billion were paid by the taxpayer to firms with connections to the Tory Party.

Eye-watering amounts of public money has been systematically funnelled into the pockets of Conservative donors and their mates under the guise of the pandemic, while our public services have been de-funded for over a decade. Enough is enough.

We need to fundamentally strengthen the foundations of our democracy – removing the ability of big business to buy influence through the backdoor, including peerages to their wealthy donors.

This means a total ban on MPs taking lucrative second jobs. That’s why I’m backing the Bill Richard Burgon MP is bringing forward to do just that. Our loyalty must be to serve in the best interests of those we are privileged to represent, not the highest bidder, for the many not the few!

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