Protests outside MP's office 'to end Government cronyism and corruption now'

 Protect Our NHS protesters outside Weston MP John Penrose's office.

A banner was held outside John Penrose's office. - Credit: Protect Our NHS

Members of a campaign group gathered outside the office of Weston’s MP in a protest to ‘end government corruption and cronyism’. 

On December 11, campaign group Protect Our NHS held a Covid-safe protest outside the Weston constituency office of the town’s MP John Penrose, the government’s anti-corruption champion. 

The protest follows the recent reports of the National Audit Office which have been critical of the way government has been awarding multi-million contracts during the pandemic, and television reports on Channel Four's Dispatches programme and BBC Points West. 

Protect Our NHS protesters outside Weston MP John Penrose's office.

A banner was held outside John Penrose's office. - Credit: Protect Our NHS

The group flagged up the role of his wife, Baroness Dido Harding, who oversees the £12billion test and trace programme, by unfurling a banner. 

In October, Mr Penrose voted against a motion to extend free school meals to schoolchildren during the holidays, which prompted protesters leave empty plates outside Mr Penrose’s Conservative Club office. 

PICTURES: Protests against John Penrose voting not to extend free school meals project.

Protect Our NHS spokesman, Ron Mendel, said: “We are drawing attention to the government’s unsavoury practice of awarding contracts to private firms, such as Serco, Sitel and Deloitte, with close political and personal ties to government ministers and advisors without adhering to any well-established tendering process. 

“It’s time to stop handing out money – money which should be going to the NHS instead - to government cronies.” 

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Protect Our NHS, as well as national groups such as Keep Our NHS Public, Open Democracy and We Own It, has been campaigning on the issue, especially underscoring the wasteful spending of taxpayers’ money on companies which fail to deliver on the 80 per cent testing and tracing target. 

Protect Our NHS protesters outside Weston MP John Penrose's office.

A banner was held outside John Penrose's office. - Credit: Protect Our NHS

A Protect Our NHS spokesman added: “We are asking Mr Penrose in his anti-corruption role to end the cronyism and corruption in the awarding of Covid-19 contracts, terminate the contracts of Serco and other private companies running the incompetent Test and Trace system. 

“We also want him to ensure the money goes to local public health authorities which have a far better track record in carrying out testing and tracing functions all on the relevant Parliamentary Committee to hold hearings on the government’s awarding of Covid-19 related contracts.” 

Commenting on the protest, Mr Penrose told the Mercury: "Assuming that any woman could only have got her job because her husband pulled some strings is just old-fashioned sexism.

"And the idea that either of us is benefitting from our work at NHS Test & Trace or as Anti-Corruption Champion when both roles are voluntary and unpaid, shows they haven’t done their homework.

"I’m not surprised only three people turned up to this demo, and I hope Protect Our NHS will distance themselves from something so silly as fast as possible.“

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