Michelle Mone in the House of Lords

An accelerating corruption scandal will add to the Tory crisis in 2024. New revelations have confirmed how baroness Michelle Mone plundered government contracts during the early days of the Covid pandemic—and then lied about it.

Even more damaging, her excuse was that everyone, including top government ministers, knew about her actions. Much of the media—but not Socialist Worker—had accepted Mone’s version.

But then on 17 December Mone told the BBC that she had approached Michael Gove, then minister for the Cabinet Office, offering PPE Medpro’s services in 2020.

Over several years, spokespeople and lawyers for Mone denied she had any involvement with the company, as did people representing her husband, Doug Barrowman. 

Mone has now admitted she stood to gain from profits of about £60 million. She and her children were beneficiaries of trusts where the money was held, said Mone, adding, “It’s my husband’s money.” Mone then said that lying to the media was “not a crime”.

Barrowman also accused the government of attempting to “call the dogs off” a criminal investigation into the pair if he was able to stump up more money. This relates to a compensation settlement over allegedly faulty personal protective equipment provided by PPE Medpro.

As the accusations grew, Rishi Sunak claimed to be taking the affair “incredibly seriously”. But Mone retorted on Twitter, “What is Rishi Sunak talking about? I was honest with the Cabinet Office, the government and the NHS in my dealings with them. 

“They all knew about my involvement from the very beginning.” She explained, “I was just acting the same way as every other baroness and lord who were also putting names forward.”

Mone then complained she was being treated like notorious Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar after the National Crime Agency froze her bank accounts. 

At least Escobar generally provided the goods his customers expected, which can’t be said of PPE Medpro. Mone, who fronted a lingerie company, shot to prominence in the Tory Party when she was appointed “Tsar” for business start-ups in David Cameron’s government and was then elevated to the House of Lords in 2015. In June 2020, PPE Medpro was awarded two PPE deals by the Department of Health. 

One was for £122 million for 25 million surgical gowns and the other was for £89 million for the supply of 210 million face masks.  A HSBC bank paper trail establishes that in September 2020 Barrowman received at least £65 million in profits from the PPE deal. 

These profits were transferred to The Warren Trust, registered in the Isle of Man, with Barrowman the beneficial owner. As with the Tory scandals in general, the great danger is that Mone and all her cronies at the top now escape unscathed.

Get sexist Cleverly out 

Home secretary James Cleverly should be driven from office after he made what he said was a joke at a Downing Street reception about spiking his wife’s drink with a drug that is sometimes used by rapists. 

His comments came just after the government announced a crackdown on spiking—when someone puts drugs into another person’s drink or body without their knowledge or consent. 

The Tory minister told women guests at the Number 10 event that the secret to a long marriage was making sure that your spouse was always “mildly sedated” so she would not notice that there were “better men out there”.

Anna Birley from the group Reclaim These Streets, a women’s safety campaign, said it was not enough for Cleverly to apologise. “Cleverly should be deeply ashamed and needs to hand in his resignation letter,” she said.

More election chaos for government 

Tory MP Miriam Cates is under investigation by the parliamentary standards watchdog over allegations she caused “significant damage” to the reputation of the House of Commons. 

The MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, elected in 2019, was accused of harming the reputation of the “House as a whole, or of its members generally”. 

No further details of the probe have been published because the parliamentary standards commissioner’s process is confidential. 

Cates has previously been linked with a lockdown-busting party celebrating the birthdays of fellow backbenchers in December 2020. She has not commented on whether or not she attended.

Cates is one of eight MPs under investigation by the Standards Commissioner, including Dame Eleanor Laing, Commons deputy speaker, and veteran Tory Sir Bernard Jenkin.

A by-election, and another possible humiliation for the Tories, is coming in Wellingborough after voters there chose to trigger a vote following the suspension of their MP, Peter Bone.

The recall petition was opened when the former minister was suspended from parliament for six weeks. A watchdog found he had bullied a staff member and exposed his genitals near their face.

The Conservatives are defending an 18,540 majority in the Northamptonshire constituency. Bone may stand again—for the Reform UK party. This is the successor organisation to Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.

In some national polls, Reform UK is now around 9 percent, mainly attracting voters who think the Tories are failing to deliver on issues such as stopping migrants.

The party’s leader, Richard Tice, claims to have signed up more than 400 general election candidates already.

Pay rise for MPs and Lords 

MPs are in line for an  above-inflation pay rise of more than £6,000 next year. Parliamentarians are projected to receive a 7.1 percent boost, which will push their basic salary level from £86,584 to £92,731 a year from April.

The tax-free allowance that members of the House of Lords receive just for turning up is also expected to go up, by £24 to £366 a day

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