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The Guardian’s take on crony capitalism: Moral corruption stalks parliament | Editorial


VSrony capitalism in the house of lords is not a good look for britain. Yet during the Covid crisis, there seemed to be strong arguments that political access enabled privileged individuals to extract much of the wealth from the state. On Wednesday, the Guardian produced startling evidence for those willing to pursue this argument. He suggested Michelle Mone, a Tory peer, her husband, Douglas Barrowman, and her children secretly received £65million from the profits of PPE Medpro, a company that secured major government contracts during the pandemic after the recommended to ministers. If capitalism during a national emergency can be so easily rigged to favor connected insiders, then the country is in trouble.

The government lubricated these dodgy deals by setting up a “VIP lane” in which vendors recommended by politicians or officials were fast-tracked. PPE firm Medpro was referred to the VIP route after Lady Mone contacted ministers Michael Gove and Lord Agnew to offer help in May 2020. Weeks later the government pledged to pay to the company £203million for protective equipment for the NHS. A court later said the VIP lane was illegal. Perhaps worse, it was ineffective. The government is now in dispute over millions of surgical gowns supplied by PPE Medpro which it says were not up to scratch. PPE Medpro insists that its products have passed inspections.

Lady Mone was named a life peer by David Cameron in 2015. Her arrival on the Tory benches raised eyebrows, given her previous support for Labour. Others questioned her professional credentials, given that her lingerie business had lost money (it went bankrupt in 2018). But the conservative peer was undeterred, selling jewelry on a home shopping channel and posing as a cryptocurrency expert. Lady Mone’s remarkable success has been hard to miss lately, with a lavish lifestyle of luxury yachting, an expanding property portfolio, an Indian Ocean honeymoon and a wedding featured in Hello! magazine. The pair, however, deny becoming incredibly wealthy profiting from a company they lobbied for state contracts.

Lady Mone is being investigated by the Lords Commissioner for Standards after being accused of failing to declare an interest in PPE Medpro. The company is also being sued by HM Revenue and Customs, reportedly for unpaid taxes. He says he will “pay in full” if any monies are due. The Mone family properties have been raided by the National Crime Agency, which is investigating potential fraud linked to the business. The National Audit Office estimated that £1.4bn of spending through the VIP route was at risk of not getting value for money.

The whole episode stinks of government contempt. Peerages should not just be a means to achieve personal – or ideological – goals. Nor should they be distributed to wealthy businessmen in exchange for funding political parties. The Lords have grown recklessly bloated, now with over 800 peers. Leaks suggest Sir Keir Starmer will abolish the upper house and replace it with a new elected house as part of plans to ‘restore faith in politics’. Many peers play a valuable role in calmly reviewing and amending laws that have often been rushed through the Commons. However, the revelations about Lady Mone show how the upper house and the institutions of the British state have been strained by the current political dispensation. Moral corruption in the British parliament is a morbid symptom of liberal democracy itself.

theguardian Gt

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