The country is in trouble if during a national emergency the economy could be so easily rigged to favour connected insiders
Crony capitalism in the House of Lords is not a good look for Britain. Yet during the Covid crisis, there appeared to be a strong case that political access allowed privileged individuals to extract a great deal of wealth from the state. On Wednesday, the Guardian produced astonishing evidence for those wishing to prosecute this argument. It suggested that Michelle Mone, a Tory peer, her husband, Douglas Barrowman, and her children secretly received £65m originating from the profits of PPE Medpro, a company that was awarded large government contracts during the pandemic after she recommended it to ministers. If capitalism during a national emergency can be so easily rigged to favour connected insiders then the country is in trouble.
The government lubricated such questionable deal-making by setting up a “VIP lane” into which suppliers recommended by politicians or officials were fast-tracked. PPE Medpro’s business was referred to the VIP lane after Lady Mone contacted the ministers Michael Gove and Lord Agnew to offer help in May 2020. A few weeks later, the government contracted to pay the firm £203m for protective equipment for the NHS. A court later said that the VIP lane was unlawful. Perhaps worse, it was ineffective. The government is now in dispute over millions of surgical gowns supplied by PPE Medpro that it says were not up to scratch. PPE Medpro insists its products passed inspections.