An official investigation into PPE procurement reveals the extent of the cronyism practised by the Tories and their capitalist chums during the pandemic. To end this scandalous waste and corruption, we must fight to end capitalism.

An official investigation into PPE procurement reveals the extent of the cronyism practised by the Tories and their capitalist chums during the pandemic. To end this scandalous waste and corruption, we must fight to end capitalism.

A recent report from the National Audit Office (NAO) has revealed that lucrative PPE and COVID testing contracts were handed out to Tory Party chums on the basis of little more than cronyism.

These contracts have been played down as a series of ‘mistakes’ in the bosses’ press. But the impression painted by the NAO report is that well-connected capitalists enjoyed a feeding frenzy from the Tories.

It also reveals just the tip of a colossal iceberg of Tory corruption, waste, and hypocrisy.

Corruption throughout the establishment is no accident. Nor is it simply the result of a ‘few bad apples’: of ‘evil’, ‘nasty’ politicians and other unscrupulous characters. Rather, it is the logical result of a rotten system, driven by an insatiable thirst for profits, no matter the human cost.

Cronyism and corruption

Following a decade of Tory austerity, PPE stock levels were at a record low at the start of the pandemic, leading to tragic images of NHS doctors and nurses wrapping themselves in makeshift, DIY protection in Britain’s hospitals.

But by July 2020, the government had bought far more than it could use. In total, a staggering £10 billion has been squandered on unused or unsuitable material.

Today, according to the Economist, around 14 billion pieces of PPE are in storage across the country, accruing millions of pounds in fines, with 1.5 billion items set to soon pass their expiry date. A further four billion pieces were never even fit for purpose in the first place. 

A major reason for this waste is linked to the notorious ‘VIP Lane’, in which companies were fast-tracked to the front of the queue to receive millions of pounds of public money. Many of these ‘VIP’s had never produced or procured PPE before. Fortunately for them, however, they had links with the Tories.

One of these businesses was Medpro, which has direct ties to Tory peer Michelle Mone and her husband, and which ‘won’ a £200 million contract to sell PPE to the NHS.

The NAO report reveals that the company purchased £46 million worth of PPE, which was then sold onto the NHS for a whopping £122 million. 25 million of the gowns purchased, however, had to be refused by the NHS for being substandard. Medpro’s £76 million profits, on the other hand, have not been returned.

In response to the public outrage of this open cronyism, the government has set up a new public sector fraud authority. But, in the words of the outgoing Treasury minister Lord Agnew, attempts by the Tories to tackle fraud would resemble a “Dad’s Army” operation.

The comparison to the bumbling Home Guard in Dad's Army is far too kind – particularly when the Tories’ ‘mistakes’ have led to over 170,000 COVID deaths.

Dustbin of history

As Karl Marx pointed out in Capital, the only part of the so-called national wealth that enters into the possession of the working class is the national debt. This can be seen clearly today, with the Tories and bosses looking to make workers foot the bill for the coronavirus crisis. 

But workers and youth are moving into action to fight back against these attacks. This includes workers in the NHS – such as frontline nurses – who directly suffered from the cronyism and corruption surrounding PPE procurement, and who have mobilised repeatedly over the last year in their struggle for fair pay.

To win, these industrial struggles must be linked to a political struggle against the Tories and the capitalist system they represent. This means arming workers with a bold socialist programme: fighting to bring the commanding heights of the economy into the hands of the working class. 

On the basis of a democratically-owned and planned socialist economy, the waste and needless COVID deaths could have been prevented, with society’s productive capacity and resources utilised and distributed in a rational way in order to fight the pandemic.

By contrast, the last two years have proven beyond doubt that capitalism – far from being ‘efficient’ – is totally incapable of providing the working class with the basic necessities of life.

That is why we must organise to overthrow the Tories and the bankrupt system that they defend, and consign capitalism to the dustbin of history.

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