Sunday 11 December 2022


Patrick Cockburn in the 'i' newspaper published today (10.12.2022) writes:

 "Britain has entered an era of legalised larceny by the politically well-connected some 150 years after the Victorians ended what they execrated as the "Old Corruption".

By this term, the Victorians did not mean only practices that were illegal but all the behaviours which had enabled the ruling elite to obtain jobs and money through patronage and partisanship.

As Cockburn notes, the best-known achievement of the Victorian reformers who wanted to root out the cancer of corruption from the political world was the Northcote-Trevelyan Report of 1854 which paved the way for a British civil service open to all through public examination. I would also add the legislation that ensured that, by the end of the Victorian period, corruption had been outlawed from all public elections. 

Yet now we are viewing example after example of what I shall term 'administrative malfeasance' in public office. It is a term I used in 'Dying to Know - Running through a Pandemic' (2022). In June 2020, the UK had the highest figure of any country in the world for deaths per million from COVID. I wrote:

"There must be a reckoning. Those of us on the receiving end of injustice need to believe in the possibility of legal redress. ... In my reading a couple of months ago, I learned of a Spanish senator who was attempting to take their prime minister to court on a charge of administrative malfeasance because of his government's failure to respond to the pandemic with the kind of rational and humane insight that other countries such as New Zealand have shown. Amen to that." (pp.35-36).

Two and a half years later, this Tory government is on its third prime minister and desperately doing all it can to ensure that any pandemic report which may emerge in the distant future is a white-wash. Read my book to get the truth. 

Baroness Michelle Mone of Mayfair - Wikipedia image - in 2013 - now under investigation, seeking to clear her name.

Read the allegations against Baroness Michelle Mone over PPE procurement. Notice how many of the worst ingredients of the "Old Corruption" are re-emerging in modern Britain. Here are some highlights from the Wikipedia article on Mone, who was made a peer in 2015 by the then Tory PM, David Cameron:

Born in October 1971,[1] Michelle Allan grew up in Glasgow's East End. She recounted how she had lived with her family in a one-bedroomed house with no bath or shower until she was ten.

She left school aged 15, with no qualifications, to pursue a modelling career.[3] At 17 she met her future husband, Michael Mone, and by 18 years old, she was pregnant with her first child, Rebecca.[3] She then converted from Protestantism to Catholicism and married Michael, an anaesthetist's son from a Catholic family.[3]

Business career[edit]

Mone obtained a marketing job with the Labatt brewing company and, within two years, had risen to become its head of marketing in Scotland.[3] She has since said that she invented qualifications to help get the job there.[3] She was then made redundant by the company, prompting her, at the age of 23, to set up her own business using the redundancy compensation she received from Labatt.[3]

MJM International[edit]

In November 1996 she founded MJM International with her then-husband Michael.[4] In August 1999, Mone launched the Ultimo lingerie brand at Selfridges department store in London. Mone came up

with the idea for the Ultimo bra, the brand's first product, when she was wearing an uncomfortable cleavage-enhancing bra one day and believed she could create a more comfortable cleavage-enhancing bra.[5] ... Mone has claimed that an Ultimo bra was worn by Julia Roberts in the Hollywood movie, Erin Brockovich, but this was denied by the film's creators.[6] Ultimo went on to include other products, such as backless dresses and shapewear, which led to MJM International's growth.[7][8] ... In 2014, a former operations director for MJM won a claim for unfair dismissal from her company after discovering that Mone had authorised electronic bugging of his office.[10]

Mone threatened to sue her critics when it was revealed her company MJM International had paid a substantial sum of money into a controversial tax avoidance scheme, criticised by Chancellor George Osborne as "morally repugnant".[11] ... Mone said she had "not done anything wrong" in relation to tax avoidance and that her ex-husband had "dealt with all the finance".[12] I

... In November 2015, Mone was criticised for using her "Baroness Mone"-styled Twitter account to promote TrimSecrets pills, although a spokesman for Mone said she had disposed of her ownership of the firm before her tweet. A spokesman for the British Dietetic Association said "there is no scientific basis or rationale for these products, they are making claims which are unfounded and feeding into public confusion around nutrition and pseudo-science."[16]

... During the London riots in August 2011, Mone called for the army to be brought in and tweeted "People who riot, steal, and cover faces deserve zero human rights".[29] I

PPE Medpro controversy

In October 2020 it was revealed that PPE Medpro, a company led by Anthony Page, a business associate of Mone and her husband Doug Barrowman, had been awarded a contract for £122 million to supply personal protective equipment (PPE) to the NHS during the COVID-19 pandemic.[44] Page resigned as secretary for MGM Media, the company that manages and receives payment for Mone's branding and media engagements and on the same day he formed Medpro.[44] ... It later emerged that a second contract for £80 million was awarded to Medpro even earlier when the company was just 4 weeks old.[46][47]

In November 2021, a Freedom of Information request revealed that Mone personally recommended the company to the government through its VIP fast-track lane for firms with political connections and that the company was awarded £200 million in government contracts. This high-priority process was set up in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in order to bypass the normal competitive tender process for procurement that was considered urgent. It further emerged in January 2022 that Mone recommended Medpro for a government contract five days before the company had been formed.[48] At the time, Mone's lawyers stated that she "was not connected to PPE Medpro in any capacity" but documents leaked to The Guardian revealed that a director of the company was a long term employee of Mone's husband's company. WhatsApp messages seen by The Guardian appeared to show Mone discussing the size of garments that formed part of a contract. Lawyers for Mone and her husband denied the allegations.[49]

Following a complaint by the Labour peer George Foulkes, the House of Lords commissioner for standards launched an investigation into the relationship between Mone and Medpro in January 2022.[50] On 27 April 2022, Mone's homes in London and on the Isle of Man and associated business addresses were raided by the police, who have launched an investigation into potential fraud.[51] The National Crime Agency is pursuing a tandem investigation into PPE Medpro.[52]

In November 2022, The Guardian reported that an Isle of Man trust, of which Mone and her adult children are beneficaries, had received £29 million originating from PPE Medpro via a series of offshore transactions involving Barrowman. Her lawyer had previously said she did not declare PPE Medpro in the House of Lords register of financial interests as "she did not benefit financially and was not connected to PPE Medpro in any capacity."[53]

Mone also lobbied for LFI Diagnostics, a company established as a secret entity of her husband Barrowman's family office, Knox family office.[54] A unnamed source told The Guardian that Mone was "in a class of her own in terms of the sheer aggression of her advocacy" for LFI Diagnostics. On 6 December 2022, Mone's spokesperson said she was taking a leave of absence from the House of Lords with immediate effect "in order to clear her name of the allegations that have been unjustly levelled against her."[43][54]

  There's much more in the Wikipedia article - but I trust I have given you a flavour of some pretty unpleasant behaviour associated with this Tory-created peer of the realm. We will see if any chickens come home to roost. 

During 2020, under Johnson's premiership, there was - in Cockburn's words - "a retreat from the standards of honest and competent government to which the Victorian reformers aspired". Vast sums of money were wasted or misused - £12 billion was spent on defective or overpriced PPE. Most of this money ended up in people's pockets but we don't know whose. The Government pleads that this was an emergency and there was no time to check on PPE suppliers - well, that's what they would say, isn't it. More fool those of us who swallow this line. 

PPE scandal - You Tube image

A study by The New York Times in December 2020 found that out of a sample of 1,200 Covid-19-related central government contracts worth £16 billion, about half, worth £8 billion, "went to companies either run by friends and associates of politicians in the Conservative party, or with no prior experience or a history of controversy. Meanwhile, smaller firms without political clout got nowhere".  

When Liz Truss became prime minister and Kwasi Kwateng Chancellor of the Exchequer in September 2022, almost their first act was to sack Sir Tom Scholar, the permanent secretary at the Treasury. An unprecedented move. How outrageous! And how little comment from the media, or Opposition parties.

Thank you, Patrick Cockburn, for weaving this sad and bitter tale together with such brilliance. Here he is, teasing out the link between early 19th century malpractice and what is happening today:

"Looting government was easy in the nineteenth century because so many functions were outsourced - a recognised feature of "Old Corruption" because profit was prioritised over performance and regulatory control was minimal. Much the same now happens in modern Britain as state functions are outsourced and degraded in the supposed interests of efficiency."

Baroness Dido Harding - image taken in in 2013 - Wikipedia

Cockburn finishes with a reminder of what happened in May 2020 when Baroness Dido Harding of Winscombe was appointed by her friend, the then-health secretary Matt Hancock to establish NHS Test and Trace. This complex task was removed from the hands of experienced local officials and handed to Harding and her 'consultants' on £1,000 a day. What followed was a failure in effective testing and tracing - more lives were lost. "Even in corrupt, cynical 19th century Britain, people might have jibbed at that."


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