There seems to be a lot of disillusionment with politics in the UK at the moment – evidenced by a lack of interest in political news.
At least, that’s how it seems to this commentator on political news.
It doesn’t help that there seems to be only one story in UK politics at the moment: corruption.
And why not? you may ask. Don’t politics and corruption go hand in hand?
Yes indeed – according to an old cliche.
But there seem to be no other stories right now. Even if there were, it’s likely that we’d be able to find an element of corruption in them. It has become the trademark of Boris Johnson’s government.
It’s also why people are turning away. They don’t like it; they want to get away from it.
But it won’t go away by itself. We need people who are willing to wade in, roll their sleeves up and cut out the rot.
We do have such people – and they are champing at the bit in their keenness to get to work.
But they won’t be able to do anything while the general public is still voting people like Matt Hancock into Parliament.
People like Hancock benefit from the system as it is currently constructed, so they are not going to change it.
I mention Hancock because he is the latest Tory to be associated with a government contract given to a private company.
He recently became a shareholder in a shredding, storage and security firm called Topwood – right before it won two NHS Wales contracts worth £150,000 each to carry out waste disposal including the shredding of confidential documents.
Shares in that firm are now held by three people: Managing Director Thomas Gilruth has 40, his wife Emily has another 40, and the remaining 20 went to her brother – Matt Hancock – after previous shareholders Bob and Shirley Carter gave up their 10 each, earlier this year.
Do we know why they gave up these shares? And it seems Hancock was given them, rather than buying them – isn’t that unusual?
Then there’s the timing – he received these shares right before Topwood won these large contracts, and Topwood coincidentally secured its place on the NHS Shared Business Services framework in 2019, just months after Hancock became Health Secretary.
Doesn’t it seem at least… odd… to you?
Legally, it seems there is nothing wrong. As Health Secretary in the Westminster government, Hancock has absolutely no influence on the awarding of contracts by NHS Wales, and this one was handed to Topwood after a competitive tendering process was completed. His interest in the firm has been declared.
But it doesn’t seem right, does it?
It seems as though Hancock used his influence as new Health Secretary to get his sister’s firm onto the NHS Shared Business Services framework nearly two years ago, and it seems that, now that the firm has a big contract, she and her husband are rewarding him with a share of the profits.
Even if that isn’t true – and I should stress I have no firm evidence in either direction – the fact that this is the way it seems is damaging for Topwood, for Hancock, and for the Johnson Tory government at a time when corruption is hot political news.
Hancock – who has also been mentioned in connection with the Greensill scandal (he had discussions with David Cameron) – should have refused the gift of shares in order to avoid any suggestion of impropriety.
But he didn’t.
As a result, the Tory government’s former anti-corruption champion has laid himself open to suggestions that he is either stupid, incompetent… or corrupt.
I hope someone follows the paper trail to find out how Topwood got onto that NHS Shared Business Services framework. It might be the only way Hancock can clear himself.
Or it might not. Either way, we need to know.
But I can confidently predict that, whatever the outcome, it won’t stop the voters of West Suffolk from supporting him again at the next general election.
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