MP’s attack on journalist (Nadine White) was wrong

As a Saffron Walden resident I am concerned that our MP Ms Badenoch attacked a journalist on Twitter for asking a question, and published the journalist’s identity, resulting in the journalist being further attacked by extremists. The question was about equality, and the journalist was Black; it’s not the first time Ms Badenoch’s behaviour suggests determination to silence those who care about race equality, while practising the politics of division in a Trumpian manner. Free press is essential to our democracy, and to attack the press suggests unwillingness to be held to account. This sets a dangerous precedent.

Yet, the Government also avoids accountability on other matters, namely, PPE ’emergency’ contracts. 

On 3 February, in open court, lawyers acting on behalf of Government admitted it had broken the law by failing to publish details of COVID-19 contracts, breaching obligations of transparency. Many contracts were awarded to companies run by people with Government connections (friends); some prices were over the odds; some friends had no experience (think ‘Arcuri-gate’ with bigger bucks), and some goods supplied were duds. Friends with benefits? Crony contracts have cost the taxpayer almost £2bn.

Not just knowingly flouting the law, but emails read to the High Court showed that Number 10 asked civil servants to delay publishing PPE contracts even further – to suit their news agenda. 

A public-interest law firm and a group of cross-party MPs initiated legal proceedings for judicial review. In future, this right may be curtailed because the Government plans to weaken the laws on judicial review – it doesn’t welcome questions, evidently preferring to break the law without consequence. Yet scrutiny of public spending is vital to hold Government to account and keep those in power honest. 

Our Government has a duty to behave honourably and transparently. Around the world, eg in Singapore, Hong Kong, and China, we see Governments abusing citizens’ and workers’ rights, behaving in ways that aren’t democratic. In the USA democracy is also under threat. As a society, I believe British people cherish democracy – it’s high time our Government does the same, by observing the law and acting with integrity.

Samantha Naik

VC Membership, and BAME Officer

Sources/further reading

On Nadine White who was attacked by our MP https://www.standard.co.uk/insider/kemi-badenoch-nadine-white-twitter-investigation-free-press-b918747.html

On Jolyon Maugham’s court case against the government https://action.goodlawproject.org/civicrm/mailing/view?reset=1&id=aa6c98db8894fe51

On the figure of £2bn for crony contracts

https://labourlist.org/2021/02/all-cheques-and-no-balances-reeves-to-deliver-speech-on-tory-cronyism/