Baroness Jones: Why we need to talk about the bigger picture of government corruption and rule breaking

'The system of self-regulation that monitors political standards in public life has failed'

10 Downing Street

Jenny Jones is a Green Party member of the House of Lords

It is obvious that the people running this government don’t believe the rules apply to them and the Conservative Party will enable that as long as they feel they can get away with framing the first conviction of a sitting Prime Minister as a ‘birthday cake ambush’. It’s time to discuss the long list of other scandals that impact on both public policy and the taxes we pay.

The system of self-regulation that monitors political standards in public life has failed. We need a more robust modern democracy that is capable of exposing and dealing with corruption. We need an investigation into the fast track scheme for PPE contracts that allowed Ministers to siphon off public money to their mates and party donors.  At present, only the police can get access to the WhatsApp conversations from the deleted accounts and lost phones of Ministers. The police won’t act, which leaves the National Audit Office (NAO) with big gaps in the information trail.

The NAO did discover that 7 out of 10 of the Track and Trace contracts were awarded without competition. However, we need the long promised public inquiry into Covid to hopefully throw some light on why Conservative peer, Baroness Dido Harding (the wife of a Tory MP), was appointed to head the body awarding the contracts in an apparent breach of the civil service code about shielding jobs like the head of public health from obvious political bias.

The reason this government got it wrong over changing the rules to protect Owen Paterson, is because they assumed that they could. Companies and lobby groups put MPs on retainer and fund their ‘offices’ because they are expecting something in return. From policy decisions that values company profits above environmental standards or people’s safety, these connections influence our lives. This gravy train isn’t restricted to a right-wing cabal, it is prevalent throughout both Houses of Parliament and as David Cameron’s lobbying on behalf of Greensill Capital illustrates, it could potentially cost taxpayers millions. That is why second jobs for MPs must be banned.

Money buys influence and influence gets you licences to pollute. That explains the £1.5m donation from the oil/gas industry to the Conservative Party since Boris Johnson became Prime Minister. If you want to know why Downing Street are reluctant to pass a dirty fuel tax on the people making huge profits from your energy bills, then look no further than the Conservatives’ register of donors.

Partygate is distressing for many who suffered during the pandemic, but as taxpayers we are all paying billions for the fraud and corrupt practices of this government. This week will be another tricky week for Number 10. The Good Law Project are writing to the Met Police to ask why they investigated the Prime Minister for only two of the six parties he attended. More questions will come out of the Sue Gray report about why Downing Street staff have taken the fall when it’s the Prime Minister at the top who sets the rules and the culture.

However, it is important not to move on from this example of rule breaking by those running the country, and it is equally important to remember it is just one example amongst many.

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