‘All Issues Are Political Issues’: Following the Money

From Russian money to procurement scandals – the wealthy in the UK are thriving while ordinary people are struggling to heat their homes. As we await the outcome of the Tory leadership election to decide who will be the next Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, who is still in office, has done nothing to mitigate the challenges people are facing. How did we arrive at this situation where we have left the largest Free Trade Market in the world, suffered 3 years of a Covid-19 pandemic and massive hikes in energy bills? What is going on?

The Russian Link

Funding by  elites, intermediaries, private companies, and organised crime groups is directing Russian Foreign policy.

Research conducted by Catherine Owen and Tom Mayne from the University of Exeter and Tena Prelec from the University of Oxford and University of Rijeka has examined the connections. It was carried out as part of the Serious Organised Crime & Anti-Corruption Evidence (SOC ACE) research programme, funded by the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO).

The team looked at the way elites in Russia were able to collaborate with wealthy people in other countries to promote Russian foreign policy and political change that would work in their financial favour.

Dr Owen explained:

“It is virtually impossible to disentangle the relationship between Russian foreign policy and Russian illicit financial flows since Russian foreign policy has a strong illicit financial – or kleptocratic – element.

“Where there is Russian formal foreign engagement, it is also likely that illicit financial flows are present.

“Russian foreign policy initiatives expedite the overseas investment of corruptly acquired money; therefore, the informal, patronal relationships that facilitate this, as well as the domestic political conditions in which they are embedded, are key factors in Russian foreign policy decision-making.”

This is done by:

  • political activities, which blur formal and informal means of diplomacy and political influencing to promote Russia-friendly candidates and political parties
  • media activities, which blur truth and falsehood by constructing and disseminating narratives painting Russia and pro-Russia actors in a positive light
  • political violence, which blurs legitimate and illegitimate use of force to secure investment projects, destabilise regions and undermine or eliminate opposition

Dr Mayne said:

“The ‘political’, ‘media’ and ‘violence’ are used alongside one another and mutually reinforce one another.”

The main financial means through which Russia’s political influence abroad is cultivated and maintained occurs through the energy sector.

The Illicit Financialisation of Russian Foreign Policy

Nord Stream 1 was signed in 2005 by the then German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and President Putin. Direct gas imports would go from Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea. It was opened in 2012. In February 2022 Gerhard Schröder was nominated for a board position at Gazprom by Putin.

“Often those individuals forging such agreements – both on the Russian side and in partner countries – are very wealthy individuals with personal connections in a range of industries and sectors, who can use these agreements to enrich themselves.”

Dr Prelec, commetning on The Illicit Financialisation of Russian Foreign Policy

In 2018 when UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, was the Government’s Foreign Secretary he had a meeting with former KGB Officer Alexander Lebedev, at the Russian’s Italian luxury home . Johnson insists that this was a social not a political meeting and no notes were taken. There were no GB security staff or civil servants in attendance.

In 2020, Alexander Lebedev’s son, Evgeny Lebedev, was made a Lord by Tory PM Boris Johnson in 2020. “The House of Lords is the second chamber of UK Parliament. It plays a crucial role in examining bills, questioning government action and investigating public policy. “ House of Lords. Evgeny Lebedev, owns the London Evening Standard and is a shareholder in The Independent.

Boris Johnson was elected Lord Mayor of London and held that office from 2008 to 2016. At the time London had the largest urban economy in Europe. Johnson had risen to popularity after several appearances on the TV comedy show ‘Have I Got News For You’, where he was able to portray himself as a bumbling but essentially harmless figure. A portrayal he has been excellent at cultivating in his media appearances.

Link: FOI – Communications with Evgeny Lebedev and Boris Johnson office , February 2017

The Tory Party Link

Boris Johnson and members of his Tory team enjoyed parties with copious amounts of drink and food during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown when people were unable to visit dying loved ones, attend funerals or even get married. Downing Street became the address with the most fines in the UK for breaking the law during the height of the pandemic. 201,058 people in the UK have to date died from Covid related causes. There are over 1.8million are struggling with long Covid.

The UK has also seen a financial scandal of unprecedented levels in the procurement and supply of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) during the Covid pandemic.

The Department for Health & Social Care (DHSC) lost 75% of the £12 billion it spent on personal protective equipment (PPE) in the first year of the pandemic to inflated prices and kit that did not meet requirements – including fully £4 billion of PPE that will not be used in the NHS and needs to be disposed of. 

Department of Health and Social Care 2020–21 Annual Report and Accounts

The report also stated that “the Department spent £1.3 billion without HM Treasury (HMT) approval.”

 Dame Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said:

“The story of PPE purchasing is perhaps the most shameful episode the UK government response to the pandemic. “

A report published in the BMJ in 2021 revealed that 10 Conservative MPs and peers referred companies through the government’s “VIP lane” for personal protective equipment (PPE) contracts. A leaked document showed that:

“There were £1.6bn worth of contracts awarded as a result of referrals from Conservative politicians. No other political party successfully referred companies through this fast tracked route.”

This included a contract awarded to Mellor Designs, the company of ex Tory MP David Mellor. The company was put forward for the contract by the UK Minister in charge of procurement for the Covid pandemic, Michael Gove. The company was awarded six PPE contracts worth £16.4m. 

 Lord Agnew, a UK Cabinet Office minister, referred three companies to the government’s high priority list, including:

  • Worldlink Resources, a company advised by former MP Brooks Newmark that landed a £258m deal.
  • Uniserve was awarded £204m in PPE contracts alongside its existing £572m contract to handle PPE logistics. It was revealed recently that the government has paid Uniserve £124m for “storage costs” of unused PPE

Lord Feldman, a health department adviser at the time, referred three companies through the fast lane including SG Recruitment which landed £50m in PPE contracts. The Conservative Peer Lord Chadlington sits on the board of its parent company, Sumner Group Holdings Limited.

The UK Health secretary Matt Hancock referred four firms and they were awarded PPE contract

  • Excalibur Healthcare
  • JD.COM
  • Monarch Acoustics
  • and Nine United.

The conservative backbench MPs Julian Lewis, Andrew Percy, Steve Brine, and Esther McVey and the conservative peer Lord Deighton referred one supplier each.

Conservative Peer, Baroness Mone denies having referred the company PPE Medpro, which won two contracts worth £200m just weeks after it was set up. The company was founded by a former business associate of Mone.

Dominic Cummings, the former government adviser, referred the company Global United Trading. It won a £350k PPE contract from the UK Government.

It is hard to imagine why those elected to serve the people of this country, seek only to serve themselves and their pals. Manipulation of news stories, the use of social media, and plainly the lies that have been told to the people of the UK is staggering.

“In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics.’ All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.” George Orwell

“All Art Is Propaganda: Critical Essays”, p.282, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt,  Keith Gessen (2009)

Fiona Grahame

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2 replies »

  1. You’ve pulled it all together there Fiona – in all its disturbing detail.

    One thing – one of the many things that gets to me is – Boris Johnson is still drawing his pay as PM – while doing nothing to earn it. Yet another example of what the hell is going on?

    “Johnson had risen to popularity after several appearances on the TV comedy show ‘Have I Got News For You’, where he was able to portray himself as a bumbling but essentially harmless figure.”

    I find it hard to forgive the people involved in HIGNFY for that – I don’t watch it these days as – well – why watch that stuff? It’s there, it’s all around us messing up our lives. I attempt to get away from it when I watch the telly – the tripe I watch these days is unbelievable.