During the Troubles, there was no shortage of politicians and pundits willing to scramble on top of a coffin, if it allowed them to fire accusations and condemnations at their political enemies. The one thing to be said in mitigation for such people was that they didn’t benefit financially.
Today, there are politicians (think Trump) who deny the existence of a crisis even as the coffins mount up. Here in Ireland, the deaths have mounted up too: in the south, 1995 people have died from Covid-19; in the north the figure is 878. You probably remember the heroic health-workers who struggled to treat those affected. We showed our appreciation (well, most people did) by standing and applauding them at a given time each week. And you probably remember that there was a serious problem of PPE supplies – health workers were heading in to treat the diseased with inadequate protection. And so the amount of PPE equipment was ramped up.
Who got the contract for this vital equipment? Well, if you had produced a shedload of PPE your best bet would have been to have links to politicians or senior officials who had leverage when deciding who got what contracts to supply PPE.
Recent reports in The Guardian show that people with the ear of politicians or senior officials were directed to a special channel where they were around eight times as likely to get the government contract than those who didn’t get directed to this channel. Given that the British government spent £18 billion in the first six months of the pandemic, that was some serious money heading the way of the favoured few.
More than half – around £10 billion – of contracts were awarded without any competition. The paperwork explaining why Company X was chosen to supply rather than Company Y unfortunately went missing. Sometimes contracts were drawn up after the companies had started working.
Over 50,000 people have died of Covid- related illnesses in the UK. Attracted by the smell of money, government cronies have as usual quietly made a bundle. So when B Johnson talks about ‘levelling up’, maybe he means everybody should have an inside track for making money from a killer disease.