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Scandal, U-Turns and Corruption: A Tory-Style Pandemic

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Competent governance of a country during a pandemic is something which would raise issues in any political party, however the situation surrounding Covid-19 has highlighted a multitude of problems coming directly from the most prominent members of the Conservative party.

In a financial sense, the Tory party has displayed clear and continued cronyism through its use of dodgy “fast-track” contracts which benefit the businesses that are deemed to be friends of the party and its members. The usual process of awarding government contracts for the provision of goods includes bids to tender and ten eventually awarding the contract to the company that provides the best value for money. However, as with any rule in government, there are derogations. In a national emergency, such as Covid, the government can resort to a list of pre-approved suppliers for goods; these suppliers are all accompanied by a recommendation by a minister or other government official. For this very reason, the contracts for goods like personal protective equipment and Covid testing kits, have been awarded to friends of ministers – however the speed at which the goods were provided through the ‘fast-track’ list came at the expense of the quality of the items. Poor quality goods were provided to the NHS during a time of national crisis and were inadequate for the one job that they were sourced for: to keep the public safe. This was a clear and overt display of the priority of benefitting Tory donors over the general well-being of the country and its people, an illustration of disregard for the people of the United Kingdom. 

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On a social front, the Conservative party has shown sustained disregard for their own rules that were created with the advice of senior scientific advisors and government officials. Dominic Cummings’ trip to Durham during lockdown proved to be a true ‘smack in the face’ to the British public who, for the main part, had been adhering to lockdown rules. The senior aide to Boris Johnson, then took responsibility for the scandal which blew up, and held a press release. It resulted in his resignation following an increasing power struggle within Johnson’s staff; using Cummings’ actions to prove a point and make an example of him by the Party was a move that united the country in its blatant hypocrisy. It was the beginning of a belief that it was one rule for the government and another for the rest of the country. This belief was repeated in another example of the government’s disregard for its citizens, when it decided to remove free school meals for children of impoverished families during the school holidays. The decision was eventually U-turned after widespread backlash and support from public figures, such as footballer Marcus Rashford. However, the U-turn on this decision is not the notable point, rather the attention should be brought to the fact that during a national and international crisis, a decision was made to remove the option of free school meals for impoverished children. These families are some of the poorest members of society and therefore one of the groups that is most likely to be affected by COVID – and the government treated them with disrespect and disdain. When former Eton students and members of the Bullingdon Club decide to take away the most basic aids to families in need, it does nothing but reinforce the elitist and privileged notion of the English government; that the government will always, by majority, be an old boys’ club for the well-to-do. 

When the pandemic was first declared in March 2020 and workers across the country were facing unemployment or furlough for the first time in their lives, they turned to the government and to an overwhelmed benefits system which wasn’t designed to handle the influx of claimants that it faced. When the first lockdown was announced in Spring 2020, there were over ten times the normal amount of claims within the first fortnight. Processes changed for new claims, employees from other departments were drafted in to be able to handle the amount of support that was needed, and people did their best to provide the desperately needed aid to those that had been hit the hardest by the pandemic. The government may have failed its citizens, but it was the citizens that rallied and brought themselves through the crisis; communities came together and local heroes became the glue that held towns together. 

Ambrin Williams

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