Inside the murky world of Tory corruption and sleaze

Under Boris Johnson’s UK Tory government, it’s one rule for them and another for everyone else.

The unfolding corruption scandal – with paid lobbying, dodgy Covid contracts and cash for peerages – underlines just how broken the Westminster system is.

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson dodges scrutiny, refuses to apologise, and one UK Cabinet member said on live TV that it’s all merely a “storm in a teacup”.

Here’s all you need to know.

Owen Paterson lobbying scandal

Tory MP Owen Paterson has failed to declare his interest as a paid lobbyist for two private sector companies, for which he was paid £110,000 a year.

One of the companies, Randox, has been able to secure Covid-19 contracts worth roughly half a billion pounds, many awarded without tender and despite the company not having enough equipment.

The independent Standards Committee found Owen Paterson broke parliamentary rules on lobbying, and proposed a punishment of 30 days’ suspension from the UK Parliament.

Instead of accepting it, Tory MPs – forced by the UK government under a three-line whip – voted to block an immediate suspension of Owen Paterson and to completely rip up the existing standards committee that found against Paterson.

After the SNP and Labour said they would boycott the proposed new standards committee – labelled a “kangaroo court”, the UK government performed a drastic U-turn and Owen Paterson had resigned as an MP.

Geoffrey Cox: MP missing in action earned over £800k in the Caribbean

Tory MP and ex-minister Geoffrey Cox has been voting in Parliament remotely from the Caribbean, making £100,000s in his second job, advising the government of the British Virgin Islands during a UK government corruption inquiry – essentially working to help stop exposure of corruption in the Caribbean tax haven.

So far, Cox has earned more than £800,000 from his second job at a law firm Withers, a company that boasts of helping multinational companies sue nations for introducing any measures that harm their profits.

Since he left government in February 2020, he has only spoken in one Commons debate and he was found to travel to the Caribbean during the national lockdown, while the “stay at home” order was still in place and non-essential international travel was banned.

Boris Johnson: running away from scrutiny

Boris Johnson failed to attend the emergency Commons debate on MPs’ standards and Tory corruption, and went on a chicken run to Northumberland to do a photo-op in an NHS hospital, where he wasn’t even wearing a mask.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, one of the key backers of Owen Paterson, attended the debate but did not speak or answer questions, sending fellow minister Steve Barclay to do it instead.

House of Lords: a revolving door of Tory corruption

An investigation from the Sunday Times and openDemocracy exposed a fresh “cash for honours” scandal – with Tory donors and chums consistently getting rewarded for their donations with seats in the House of Lords.

The findings revealed that 15 out of 16 Tory party treasurers in the past seven years gave £3 million to the Tory party, and every single one of them was offered a peerage.

An ex-Tory party chairman was quoted saying: “The truth is the entire political establishment knows this happens and they do nothing about it… The most telling line is, once you pay your £3m, you get your peerage.”

SNP MP Pete Wishart has now formally reported it to the Metropolitan Police, urging a “cash for honours” investigation into the Tories.

Malcolm Offord: Tory donations for a peerage and ministerial post

Millionaire Tory donor Malcolm Offord, who has donated almost £150,000 to the Conservative Party, was given a life peerage by Boris Johnson in October 2021.

Despite failing to get elected for the Scottish Tories in the Scottish election in May 2021, not only was he given a lifelong position of power and privilege – but also was appointed as a UK government minister in the Scotland Office.

Malcolm Offord’s peerage and appointment as a UK government minister is another shameful display of Tory cronyism and corruption – confirming again that Westminster is broken beyond repair.

Scottish Tories embroiled in latest ‘dark money’ donations

A new investigation has revealed the Tories failed to hand back tens of thousands of pounds in donations from two firms linked to criminal activity.

The party has also refused to rule out taking more donations from such businesses in the future.

This follows reports of more “dark money” donations to an anti-independence campaign group which supported the Tories and other pro-Union parties during the election.

The donations have been designed to keep the identities of the donors secret, and may have breached electoral law.

Tory abuse of public Covid funds for political campaigning

In June 2021, High Court evidence revealed that Michael Gove used a £560,000 emergency Covid contract, publicly funded to tackle the pandemic and save lives, to undertake political research on “attitudes to the UK Union”.

The £560,000 contract has been granted to Public First – a company run by Gove’s long-term associates and former employees, James Frayne and Rachel Wolf.

Instead of saving lives, the Tories have been spending public cash on research on the Union – and yet they still refuse to publish any of the findings, supposedly not liking the result.