From David Maughan Brown in York: Of barrels and troughs

March 5th 

The evidence is stacking up that the Tory party is not just the nasty party – as perfectly exemplified by our Honorable Home Secretary – but also the comprehensively corrupt party.   Give or take a bit of relabelling, the ‘pork barrel’ cartoon above seems apposite: the geriatric male on the right seems a pretty accurate representative of the Conservative Party’s membership demographics, and the sleek and well-fed gentleman on the left seems a reasonable depiction of its MPs and their trough-sharing, or in the immediate case barrel-sharing, chums.  The dollar sign would just need to be changed for a pound sign.

Rishi Sunak, our Honourable Chancellor of the Exchequer – who has been coming in for a great deal of mockery of late for using public funding to put out what is said to be a cringingly embarrassing (I haven’t been able to steel myself to watch it yet) self-promotion video to assist his chances of moving next door from No 11 to No 10 Downing Street – has been having to deny accusations of engaging in “naked pork-barrel politics”.[1]  45 towns have recently been awarded a share of £1 billon ‘levelling up’ funding; 39 of those just happen to be in Tory constituencies, with Sunak’s own relatively wealthy constituency’s Richmondshire borough being high up the priority list.  The Independent’s Rob Merrick points out that ‘this echoes the controversy over the £25m towns fund handout to the constituency of Robert Jenrick’ – our old friend the Honorable Secretary of State for Communities, Housing and Local Government of the seemingly corrupt deal with Richard Desmond (see June 28th post) – which just happened to be only 270th on the list of the most deprived constituencies.  That decision was approved by Jake Berry, who was the Honourable Minister for the Northern Powerhouse (seriously) from 2017-2020 at the time, at the same time as Jenrick coincidentally approved a similar grant for Berry’s constituency.  The scratching of backs comes to mind – porcine backs.

But the corruption extends well beyond the relatively limited scope of pork-barrels, strictly interpreted as public monies channelled towards the ruling party’s constituencies. It is, for example, reported that our Honorable Prime Minister has succeeded in settling Sir Philip Rutman’s bullying case against our Honorable Home Secretary, Priti Patel, for a mere £340,000[2] of our taxpayer’s money (plus Rutman’s undisclosed legal costs) to avoid the full extent of the execrable Patel’s bullying being exposed in an employment tribunal.   A Prime Minister would, one might think, have second thoughts about a very public squandering of public money on protecting a hopelessly unsuitable senior minister from public scrutiny just because she is popular with the party members and hangers-on who cluster around the trough, but this is a government that quite clearly simply doesn’t care about what the rest of the world thinks.

Our honourable ministers are happy to be filmed standing outside their houses hypocritically clapping NHS staff, over 900 of whom have died during the pandemic, many of them as a direct result of government carelessness and incompetence, and then ‘reward’ them with a derisory 1% pay-rise, which, given that inflation is more than 1%, amounts to a pay cut.  Having squandered hundreds of millions on dishing out contracts for PPE and Test and Trace to their private sector chums they now claim they ‘can’t afford’ any more.  And they are very happy to break international law a second time, further trashing the UK’s international reputation and risking the Good Friday Agreement, by unilaterally extending the grace periods on post-Brexit customs checks at Northern Ireland ports until the end of September. 

The one unquestionable national success story of the past dismal year has been the roll-out of the vaccination programme. The trough-oriented politicians in our cabinet cannot contain the enthusiasm and volubility with which they are congratulating themselves on this success.  Their record suggests very strongly, however, that the only reason it has been a success is that, unlike Test and Trace, they couldn’t identify any profits that could be made by their private sector chums from the mass roll-out of vaccinations, so they handed it over to the NHS whose efficiency and commitment they are now trying to take credit for, even as they deny the staff responsible their promised post-Covid reward.


[1] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/budget/budget-keir-starmer-regeneration-funding-b1812508.html

[2] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-56281781