Dodgy PPE contracts, secret donor groups, and property tycoons: Conservative cronyism isn’t new
The pandemic has brought unprecedented hardship to tens of millions of Britons, with over 130,000 loved ones lost to the virus. The strict lockdowns and restrictions introduced to fight it only adding to the loss of livelihoods and the devastating decline of our people’s mental health. However, the past year has also provided us with an enlightened view of the government’s irresponsible and crony spending of public funds, as well as the astounding level of corporate influence behind the scenes within the Conservative Party.
Tory friends receive government support at the expense of the public
A Transparency International UK report uncovered 24 PPE contracts worth around £1.6 billion which were given to associates of the Conservative Party within the last year, including one worth over £250 million for Ayanda Capital, a company where an advisor to Liz Truss served as a senior advisor, the PPE from which was deemed inadequate. The Advisory Board, a secret group of Conservative backers, receives regular meetings with the Chancellor and Boris Johnson for a mere £250,000 donation, reportedly using their access to the PM to push for tax cuts and lower government spending. Meanwhile, big property developers have provided around £18 million in contributions to the Tories since July 2019, which came to light at the same time as the government pushed for a controversial reform of planning rules from which these backers will surely benefit. These are but a few of the stories that have dogged the party and led to accusations of a ‘chumocracy’, where Tory friends receive government support at the expense of the public. Whilst alarming, this is in no way surprising.
Since it entered into government in 2010, the Conservative Party has been continually discredited and criticised for its cosy relationship with business and the pursuit of favourable policies for its supporters even if the public were set to lose out. One policy of note is the 2011 reform of stamp duty paid when bulk buying, meaning that large banking institutions received a considerable tax reduction and benefited from the change introduced in the same year that the party received well over £600,000 from donors within the financial sector. When it comes to donors receiving government aid, however, a stark example is that of Mark Bamford donating £150,000 to the Conservatives on the same day that his brother’s company, JCB, received part of the Regional Growth Fund even though it had made nearly a quarter of a billion in profit the year before. There are others, like Simon Wolfson who donated over £350,000 before being rewarded with a peerage by David Cameron after the 2010 election campaign. Even our current PM as Mayor of London approved property plans by the Reuben brothers whose proposals included zero affordable housing but had given over £1 million to the Conservative Party.
The last year has rightly highlighted the Johnson administration as a crony paradise for Tory donors and backers
These examples of the Tories using their office and power to benefit their backers is perhaps most exemplified over the years through their support of the non-dom status. Those who become non-domiciled residents benefit from avoiding the UK’s taxes levied on dividends and capital gains for selling shares at around 38% and 20%, respectively. As such, this has allowed incredibly wealthy individuals to avoid paying taxes on their income altogether, and with a third of billionaires having done so in the last decade, our tax code has become a regressive system where the wealthiest pay nothing whilst wage earners are left with the bill—this socialism for the rich benefits no one but the Conservative Party. As The Times uncovered, those that live in tax havens donated around £5.5 million in the decade after 2009, with the Tories illegally accepting well over £1 million ahead of the 2017 election. This reliance on supporters with the non-dom status means that no matter how wrong the system is, the Conservatives wouldn’t dare to change it. When the opportunity did arise in 2017, when as many as 22 Tories were set to disobey the government line and support an amendment that would impose new transparency reforms for such individuals, the government dropped the bill, unwilling to make billionaires pay their share of tax.
The last year has rightly highlighted the Johnson administration as a crony paradise for Tory donors and backers. The danger is forgetting that this isn’t a sudden feature of Boris Britain but a consistent, continual characteristic of the Conservative government for the last decade. No matter how much the Conservatives may have changed since their election in 2010, from austerity Osborne to spend-thrift Sunak, support from corporate giants and elite bosses fund the party, and we know where its loyalties lie.