NHS staff protested to demand better PPE at the start of the pandemic, Chesterfield, photo Elaine Evans

NHS staff protested to demand better PPE at the start of the pandemic, Chesterfield, photo Elaine Evans   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Shoddy PPE and illegal profiteering cronyism

£299 million of PPE brought by the government during the pandemic has gone out of date. The early days of the pandemic were marked by health and care workers’ struggles for face masks and other PPE. Now, two years on, the government is suggesting those workers could be asked to use the out-of-date products.

£17.3 billion of PPE contracts were awarded between March and July 2020 to private companies. Many of those were awarded using the government’s ‘VIP lane’ – now deemed illegal by a High Court judge. The system allowed politicians to refer firms to be given contracts. A referral made a supplier ten times more likely to get a deal, according to the National Audit Office.

How much profit has been made from this aspect of the pandemic alone? To supply high-quality PPE for all during the pandemic, the Socialist Party raised the need for the nationalisation of the PPE manufacturing and supply industries. By doing this, production and distribution could be planned democratically to meet need rather than make profits.

Our energy bill pain, their decade of dividends

9% of households spend one pound in every ten of their income on energy bills. This is set to rise to 27% in April when the planned energy price cap is lifted. The average bill is set to jump from £1,277 to £2,000 a year.

Energy company SSE has advised its customers to do star jumps. E-on has sent 30,000 customers a pair of socks to replace the heating they can no longer afford.

Meanwhile, oil and gas companies have handed shareholders almost £200 billion in the last ten years, according to think tank Common Wealth. This figure dwarfs the £20 billion being passed on to households in Britain, driving increasing numbers into debt and poverty.

Common Wealth goes on to call for a ‘windfall tax’ on these companies. That’s a start, but why not nationalise these companies under democratic workers’ control, to prevent future market failures for which the working class are asked to pay?

Capitalist inequality kills

99% of humanity are worse off because of Covid-19.

The wealth of the ten richest people has doubled since the pandemic began.

One person dies every four seconds as a consequence of inequality.

These are some of the findings of the Oxfam report ‘Inequality Kills: The unparalleled action needed to combat unprecedented inequality in the wake of Covid-19’.

The report concludes with the need for “systemic solutions” for a more equal world, “ensuring that the market, the private sector, and globalisation do not produce greater inequality in the first place”.

The fact is, capitalism, an economic system based on private ownership of wealth and the pursuit of profit, has inequality hardwired into its DNA.

The report’s suggestion to “tax rich people” is a start, but not enough. What’s needed is the nationalisation of the top companies and banks, to be run under democratic workers’ control and management as part of a socialist plan, coordinated internationally.