Pork barrel politics is now a key component of Tory electioneering. Vital projects in constituencies without a Tory MP are denied and unfunded but acquire funding if a Tory is elected. This was commonplace after Tory gains in Scotland in 2017 general election and will be repeated in England in 2021 via the Towns Fund for constituencies that switched from Labour to Tory in 2019 general election.
The process is straightforward: If a previously non-Tory constituency elects a Tory MP then there is a reward, otherwise there is not. This encourages voters in other non-Tory constituencies to switch to Tory with the hope of being rewarded similarly.
There is a limit to how much money and how many constituencies will benefit from this scheme but Tories need only enough seats to win elections. The effectiveness of the scheme is not diminished by inadequacy of the financial award nor by the fact that it is often spent on something useless.
As is true of most actions by Boris Johnson’s government, legality or not of the pork barrelling is almost irrelevant.
Tories have applauded themselves for the scheme’s success. As a response to The Sun journalist Harry Cole’s criticism of Labour’s concern about legality, Tory MP Jake Berry said “Labour have let down Northern voters in Red Wall seats time and again. I doubt telling those same voters that the Conservatives are now fighting (and delivering) for them is going to win them back.” Jake Berry is a minister in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government that decides which towns receive funding via the Towns Fund. He recommended that Newark receives funding; Newark is the constituency of Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.
In two months time (in May 2021) there are council and mayoral elections in England. The timing of the Towns Fund awards is not coincidental. Public money is being used to fund the Tory election campaign for council seats and mayoral elections.
Tory corruption is as common as breathing.
Recommended reading: Good Law Project