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Can a leopard change its spots? Can a Tory MP stop taking cash for favours?
Not if allegations against government housing secretary Robert Jenrick prove correct.
Jenrick approved a planning decision in January, overruling inspectors, to allow former Daily Express magnate Richard Desmond to build 1,500 luxury homes on an old print works site in east London.
The timing of the decision avoided a surcharge (Community Infrastructure Levy) being imposed by Tower Hamlets council. 12 days later Desmond bunged the Tory party £12,000 - a paltry sum from a billionaire who had just dodged paying £40 million.
In an apparent thank you email, Desmond told Jenrick: "We appreciate the speed as we don't want to give Marxists a load of doe [sic] for nothing!" A bizarre description of cuts-making Tower Hamlets Labour council.
In a later twist to the story, Desmond claimed that Labour's London Mayor Sadiq Khan had earlier promised to fast track the development if Desmond agreed to 35% affordable housing.
And it has been reported that back in 2010, Boris Johnson, when London Mayor, was initially approached by Desmond about obtaining planning permission - "without spending loads of money" - at the east London site. Apparently, Johnson obliged.
Jenrick, of course, has denied impropriety and has refused to resign. The Cabinet Secretary Mark Sedwill (who in a behind the scenes run-in with Boris Johnson's eminence grise, Dominic Cummings, has now 'stood down') dismissed Labour's call for an inquiry, and Boris Johnson considers the matter "closed". But instead of campaigning for Jenrick's removal, Labour leader Keir Starmer sacked his shadow education spokesperson Rebecca Long-Bailey, and agreed to Johnson's call to support the premature opening of schools.
Meanwhile, it's also been revealed that Jenrick, when exchequer secretary, had met with 'family friend' Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer, who was lobbying for government support for his ailing mining company. Ofer later donated £10,000 to the Tory party.
But Jenrick's reportedly dodgy dealings are not unique. Health secretary Matt Hancock too has 'questions to answer' after intervening on behalf of Tory party donors to block a housing development near Newmarket racecourse in his constituency.
None of this comes as a surprise. Readers may remember the 'cash-for-questions' political scandal of the 1990s involving Tory MPs, and the 'cash for influence' scandals involving Labour peers and Labour MPs in 2009 and 2010, as well as the 2007 'cash for honours' scandal involving Tony Blair. And not forgetting of course the cross-party MPs 'expenses scandal' in 2009.
Capitalism and corruption goes hand in hand. That's why the workers' movement needs working-class representatives, subject to recall and paid a worker's wage, with all necessary expenses open to scrutiny.
Socialist Party member and former Militant-supporting Labour MP Dave Nellist used to regularly circulate to trade unions and labour movement bodies his full parliamentary expenses record to ensure political accountability.
See 'Ending MPs' expenses scandal requires socialist change' and 'For workers' MPs on a worker's wage' on socialistparty.org.uk
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Article dated 1 July 2020
The Socialist, weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party
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