by Freddie Sayers
Thursday, 3
October 2019
Video
12:27

Tory MP: kleptocrat “bling” oligarchs should be unwelcome in London

Tory MP John Penrose – the PM’s “anti-corruption advisor” – made a splash at the Conservative Party conference by criticising the capitalist system in such strong terms that members in the audience complained that he sounds like a Labour MP. One quote in particular caught our eye:

You will see an incredible number of flash cars being driven by oligarchs who have got their money by stealing the GDP… They have swiped it. They are now crime lords, drug lords or kleptocrats and they have repatriated it to Britain and we have let them come into the country and they are living the high life, a really bling lifestyle, and they are some of the nastiest people on the planet and we are giving them houseroom.
- John Penrose

This is an interesting and under-explored issue. The Left tend to steer clear of it because it sounds anti-foreigner, and the Right steer clear because it sounds anti-wealth. It’s politically interesting because it’s a symptom of the liberal world order right in the heart of the cities that are supposedly the beneficiaries of it – quite apart from the ‘left-behind’ towns and people that have been the focus since Brexit.

We caught up with John Penrose in a somewhat noisy café in Manchester, to try to press him on what he meant, and what could be done about it. His reticence to be drawn on anything beyond clear-cut cases of criminality is a sign of the difficulty of this issue: no matter how much you clamp down on dirty money, the “daughter of the President of Ruritania” as he put it, will continue to be free to buy up property in Belgravia.

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