After Christmas is the time for ‘thank you’ letters, isn’t it? Well, oligarchs, media barons and fossil fuel magnates should be getting out their stocking present pens to write fulsome thanks to Rishi Sunak for the generosity he has shown them. I thought it might be helpful to remind all concerned how he manages to turn miserliness towards most of his electorate into presents for his sponsors.
Some things are clearly out in the open. Whilst freezing the thresholds for higher rate income tax to the cost of millions of working folk, Sunak dallies with cutting taxes for those inheriting wealth and investing to grow what they already have. He speaks of cutting taxes for workers at the expense of those unable to work at all.
Free money from PPE
During Sunak’s time as Chancellor, contracts of huge value for Covid testing and personal protective equipment (PPE) were awarded without due process to companies, often without real expertise, who happened to be donors to the government party. For instance, as a House of Commons committee report acknowledged, over £12 billion was spent on PPE during the pandemic to “unproven, newly created companies”, including PPE Medro, a company with which Conservative peer Michelle Mone was secretly involved.
Whilst we are thinking about the haves, the scores of Tory MPs who own rental property need lose no sleep. They are free to raise rents at will, without even needing their properties to be fit for habitation. These often vote against property developments in their own constituencies to avoid unpopularity with their own voters, at the same time as shortage of housing supply drives up the value of their own assets. Under-funded local authorities then have to access hotels to house homeless people or asylum seekers, benefiting wealthy owners.
Contracts with the NHS and private sector
Conservatives believe that everyone should take responsibility for their own needs, such as healthcare, education and transport. They so squeeze public spending, for example to the NHS, that services lose viability and the public is faced with lengthening waits and/or poor support.
How does this help Sunak’s friends? First by reducing the need to raise taxes to pay for the services; then by giving investors in private providers the best possible returns. Just think how many people in pain have succumbed to having private treatment; how many families think that the best education for their children comes with spending thousands; how many people prefer the expense and environmental impact of car driving over public transport. In each sector, investors eagerly await the demand.
Even in capital programmes the government favours private over public provision, so that shareholders benefit as a direct result of government decisions. Nuclear power stations; sophisticated defence equipment; hospitals: these are not built by the State but by companies, whose shareholders profit. Just look at the water industry, sold for a snip to private companies supposed to invest in infrastructure, only for them to pay £billions in dividends to shareholders instead, leaving the network and the environment in a critical state.
What about food banks? Surely they are not in thrall to the wealthy? No. But should they exist at all? Not if the government funded welfare properly in line with demographic and cost-of-living changes. The voluntary sector has risen to a challenge which arose simply out of governments squeezing benefit levels for years, in contrast to tax cuts for the wealthy. So yes, the rich should say thank you to Sunak for food banks. Maybe this is why his colleagues so like photo opportunities at places they should be too ashamed even to visit.
Waivers for the carbon emitters
Then there is climate change. Sunak must be the darling of fossil fuel investors. In the face of near unanimity among the world’s scientists, the Conservative Party, having made some noises and steps towards supporting the international agreements to protect the climate of the planet, has cynically back-tracked to the extent of re-favouring the car industry, encouraging new investment in fossil fuel exploration and extraction and reneging on energy saving incentivisation for the public. Why? There is plenty of evidence of lobbying from investors who stand to lose most from clean energy and gain most from the continuation of fossil fuel use.
And in the name of the energy price crisis, tax revenue is directed to prop up supplier profits rather than to help their struggling customers pay their essential bills.
Aside from all of this munificence, let us not forget ‘jobs for the boys’ either. Need a new chairman for the British Museum? Former Tory Chancellor Osborne is the very man to find private sector investment to support its future. Remember how the BBC, with its duty of impartiality and balance, under the Conservatives appointed as chair (since resigned) Richard Sharp, a donor; Robbie Gibb as a director, who actually worked in Tory No 10; and Director General Tim Davie, a former Conservative candidate?
I am sure readers could contribute many more examples because the picture is so clear: Conservative donors and investors are getting so much, directly or indirectly, from Sunak, they really should be sending those thank you letters. Perhaps, since they are so rich, they might send us all one, since it is from us that the money both originated and was diverted.
Happy Election Year. Do remember who your real friends are when you vote.