Yesterday we heard more about the hapless minister Robert Jenrick’s unlawful handling of the Richard Desmond planning application. Obviously it was not a favour nor a little arrangement to boost Tory Party coffers by £10,000—an inconsequential amount by Tory standards. But perhaps that was just a down payment. This affair has cemented one’s impression that Jenrick, who let’s not forget broke lockdown rules to visit his parents considers guidelines and laws purely for the ‘little people.’ I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Dominic Cummings hasn’t got a pin-up of Jenrick on his bedroom wall (for purposes best not examined). Also reported yesterday was the heart warming story of a company owned by brothers Simon and David Reuben (combined worth £16bn) - the Wellington Pub Company - which has been demanding full rent from tenants who haven’t been able to trade since March. The Reubens share a dirty little attribute with Richard Desmond: they too are Tory Party donors, ‘their family has donated £500,000 to the Conservative Party over the past year’ according to the Guardian. And then, in the same paper we read about another nice little earner, this time involving Jenrick again. This concerns the fate of the North Yorkshire potash mining company Sirius Minerals which is developing a new mine and which had thousands of local investors (ironically, mostly Tories I suspect). Sirius’ costs had mounted and they asked the government for support. This request landed on Jenrick’s desk in 2018. After the government turned down the request, the company was eventually sold at a knock down price to Anglo-American—a massive loss to the local investors. But who had Jenrick been in touch with? Another billionaire (I wonder if mere millionaires get a look-in these days?) called Idan Ofer, the owner of rival Cleveland Potash. Another of Ofer’s other businesses very generously gave the Tory Party £10,000 in March 2019. Sirius’s request was rejected in September of that year. Back in the days of honours peddler Maundy Gregory £10k was the price of a knighthood. How times have changed.
N.B. For the sake of clarity, there is absolutely no connection between donations to the Tory Party and the way ministers make decisions. None whatsover.