COMMENT: LOCKDOWN PARTIES, COVID CONTRACTS AND THE COST OF LIVING
I’ve had a huge number of emails from constituents who are furious about the almost daily revelations of “lockdown parties” at 10 Downing Street. Many people have recounted their own heart rending stories of their lockdown experiences, being unable to visit sick or dying relatives or even to pay their last farewells at a funeral. Meanwhile the Prime Minister and his pals thought they were above the law. To make matters worse we now know we were lied when they said these were “work meetings”, we were lied to about how often they happened, and we were lied to about who was there. On 8 December the Prime Minister told Parliament he “shared their anger” when he heard about these parties; it took him a full five weeks to admit that he not only knew about them, he had been to several of them. He’s not fit to be Prime Minister. But it doesn’t stop with him; everyone knew the kind of person he was but his party still put him into Number 10. It’s not enough to get him out. We also need to ask what kind of political system could have allowed him into Number 10 in the first place.
The High Court in England has ruled that the UK Government broke the law in their “VIP lane” system for Covid supplies contracts. This was the system that allowed companies to be fast tracked if their bosses had friends in the right places. Masses of contracts went to companies who were recommended by Tory MPs and party donors. These included multi million pound PPE contracts to companies who had no track record of ever having produced or delivered anything.
Next week the SNP will lead two debates in Parliament about the Cost of Living crisis. People are facing higher food prices because of the combined effects of Brexit and Covid. We’re being warned to expect massive hikes in gas and electricity bills early this year. We’ve seen recent cuts in Universal Credit and in most forms of coronavirus financial support. And the National Insurance increase forced through Parliament last year will hit low paid workers especially hard. There’s something seriously wrong if all this is happening in Scotland where we produce more energy than we can use, we produce some of the best food in the world, and we never even voted for the chaos of Brexit.
One of the many things the UK Government could do to ease the plight of our poorest citizens would be to abolish the “welfare cap”. This is a completely arbitrary limit on the total amount they’ll pay out in certain benefits. It doesn’t take proper account of how many people need to claim benefits or of the size of their household bills. Last week I joined colleagues to vote against the Welfare Cap for this year. The Government won the vote even more comfortably than usual because the Official Opposition didn’t turn up to oppose them.