The Jockey Club recently announced plans to make over half of its workforce redundant in a move described as an “internal restructure”. The organisation has found itself under the spotlight since lockdown began, following allegations of corruption. A closer look shows these allegations to be well founded.
£350,000 is a lot of money. It is certainly enough to keep workers in jobs on the wages the Jockey Club pays. Had they continued to employ their staff, however, they might not have been able to make donations totalling this sum to Matt Hancock. Notably, the Tory health secretary is MP for West Suffolk – a constituency that covers the racecourse and top-class training facilities at Newmarket.
Among the Jockey Club's responsibilities is the organising of the Cheltenham Festival. This year, the festival was allowed to welcome some 60,000 fans, despite taking place just days before the beginning of the national lockdown in March.
Even the BBC acknowledged that the late closure of major sporting events cost lives. Both the government and the Jockey Club, however, have rubbished claims that the lockdown was delayed in order to allow the festival to take place.
In all fairness, it does seem fanciful to suggest that the government would risk lives for the sake of an annual horse racing event. At least, it does until we meet the people involved.
For starters, there's Dido Harding. Baroness Harding is a Jockey Club and ex-Cheltenham Racecourse board member. Infamously, she was put in charge of the ‘NHS’ test and trace system, despite being wholly unqualified for the role. Unqualified, that is, except for being married to Tory MP John Penrose.
Then we meet the Patersons. Owen Paterson is a former Tory minister, recently employed as a £500-per-hour consultant at Randox – a private medical research company who have been awarded a £133 million Covid-19 testing contract.
Horse racing fans may recognise Randox as one of the sponsors of this year's Virtual Grand National. The real-life version of this event was held at Aintree and covered by the Jockey Club. Until she took her own life last month, Paterson’s wife Rose was chair of this racecourse.
What we see, then, is a revolving door of personnel and funds between the Jockey Club, big-name racecourses, and the Conservative Party.
Ultimately, this is a reflection of the shady elite networks that connect all the top figures in the British establishment and big business. Cronyism and corruption are endemic to capitalism.
It is sickening to think that jobs and lives have been lost, so that these ladies and gentlemen can line their pockets and further their careers. But it is undoubtedly true.
There has to be an answer from the labour movement to this total disregard for our lives. Unfortunately, this won't come from Keir Starmer or the PLP: his leadership campaign was backed by (amongst others) a £25,000 donation from Peter Coates, founder of online gambling company Bet365, who also funded the People's Vote campaign led by Starmer.
This is an apt example for the crimes of capitalism at large: while the Jockey Club gives backhanders to the Tories, it is workers who suffer the consequences, seeing their lives and livelihoods put at risk.
To rid ourselves of these injustices, we need to kick out the Tories, kick out the Blairites, and fight for workers' MPs on workers' wages – class fighters who will fight against capitalist corruption and for socialist policies.