No Rest for the Wicked: Match-Fixing in the age of Lockdown

immo-wegmann-DX3_dXuHVl8-unsplashThe Covid-19 crisis has led some sports to innovate by holding remote events. But that has also created new opportunities for corruption and match-fixing. Billy Pratt, currently taking our Master’s in Corruption and Governance, looks at match-fixing allegations in a remote darts match – and implications for how the sports industry can adapt to new conditions.

Following several months of Covid-19 related disruption, sports fans have been treated to a gradual return of live sport to their TV screens. Whilst the return of industry dominators such as football made news, a few others found ways of continuing despite strict lockdown regulations. The online suitability of esports lead to a boom in viewership for competitive gaming. Whilst not a sport in the purist sense, WWE were quick to move their wrestling shows to a crowd-less studio and never stopped. Then we have darts, which started to stage matches remotely with cameras in players’ homes to record them throwing darts at their own boards. Using this format, several professional events were hastily organised and streamed online, providing entertainment for sports-hungry fans at home and something to do for darts players with time on their hands.

Whilst these events were generally seen as a success, recent news has dampened the mood with two players, Wessel Nijman and Kyle McKinstry, being charged with match-fixing during a remote event in April. Nijman has confessed to the charges, whilst McKinstry is expected to appeal. Despite the occasional rumours, darts is not a sport typically associated with corruption, with only one confirmed betting-related match-fixing case in its professional history. The 2017 UK Sports Integrity Index even went as far as to name darts as the professional sport with the most integrity. For this reason, it is pertinent to question why this happened, if the move to a remote format was responsible and if so, what lessons anti-corruption efforts in professional sports should learn. With the winter months to come and another lockdown possible, sports fans may find themselves yet again at home watching darts being played remotely via video link.

Professional Uncertainty

The most obvious impact of the pandemic on sports as an industry has been the reduction of events, slashing earning opportunities for players. Whilst those at the top level of professional sports are well documented for their lucrative wages, the situation for those lower down is much less stable, even during normal times. Darts is no exception, with the number 1 ranked player Michael Van Gerwen earning over £1.5 million in prize money over the past 2 years whilst Nijman and McKinstry only earned several thousand each in the same time period. There are several papers within corruption literature which explore the relationship between salary and the incentive to corrupt. Within the realm of sport, Hill (2015) finds athletes are much more likely to match-fix later in their careers when they have greater awareness of their diminishing window for earning. With the pandemic postponing 14 PDC Development Tour events (which Nijman frequently played in), this may have been a factor. Given that the most high-profile remote darts tournament, the PDC Home Tour, had zero prize money on offer, it does not take an anti-corruption expert to see the allure of a match-fixing offer.

Gambling Increase

Whilst sports betting decreased during the UK lockdown as a function of there being less sport to bet on, sports corruptors quickly adapted. For example, one set of match-fixers managed to fool several well-known bookmakers into offering odds on an entirely fabricated Ukrainian football tournament. An estimated £100,000 of bets were placed before the tournament was revealed to be fake. What little sport remained saw huge betting interest with a 2,000% increase in bets placed on the basketball leagues of Tajikistan and Taiwan as well as in Belarusian football. Darts was one of the few sports that continued during this time and became a key asset for bookmakers, with several gambling websites even streaming these remote events. Match-fixing is often carried out with the intention of making or laundering money through gambling, and with Nijman and McKinstry being charged on the back of suspicious betting patterns, it is now clear that darts was targeted by match-fixers. Darts’s status as one of the few sports still available to bet on would only have made it a more attractive for fixers.

Remote Anti-Corruption Regulation

Professional darts is governed by the Darts Regulation Authority (DRA), who can be considered proactive in their anti-corruption work. They have confidential email addresses and hotlines for reporting corrupt approaches, clear and easy to follow regulations on betting and match-fixing [11] and partnerships with companies such as SportRadar to use the most refined match-fixing detection tools . These measures may partly explain why darts has rarely faced corruption issues before, and these measures also helped lead to Nijman and McKinstry being caught, for which the DRA deserves credit. However, the DRA’s usually effective approach failed to prevent corruption from taking place in this case and we must question why. With the change of format leading to players staying at home rather than travelling to a physical venue and interacting with officials, the DRA must examine if their anti-corruption efforts do enough to prevent match-fixers accessing and convincing players to fix when they are playing remotely. Match-fixing often depends on the ability of the fixer to communicate with the fixing player to relay information or instructions. In a physical tournament setting, such communication can be monitored or prohibited and there is evidence of this taking place with 2 players being officially warned for using internet devices during an event in 2017. During the remote events, officials were not only unable to physically monitor potentially corrupt communication but could not even prevent players from using internet devices capable of outside communication – indeed, the event relied on the players having internet access. The DRA’s anti-corruption approach was understandably designed for a pre-pandemic world, and must change before any more remote events are staged.

Going Forward

This case should prove instructive for a sports industry that will continue to be impacted economically until major gatherings are permitted again. The boom in esports viewership has led to the normalisation of watching two people playing video games against each other over the internet and betting on it. Even outside of a pandemic situation, remote darts events still provide content for bookmakers without having to pay for the logistics of a full sporting spectacle, but if they can’t be secured from corruption risks, these remote competitions may have to stop. The story of Nijman and McKinstry shows that even the more vigilant anti-corruption approaches need to be re-thought for our new conditions.


What does the UK’s ‘algoshambles’ tell us about corruption?

Robert Barrington, Professor of Anti-Corruption Practice at the Centre for the Study of Corruption (CSC), looks at the implications of the UK’s application of an algorithm to final-year exam results at schools – and detects some of the primary ingredients for corruption.

Many in the anti-corruption community have been puzzling in recent years about the relationship between tech advances and corruption.  There are some clear positives: such as greater transparency enabled by easier and more instant flows of information; and the arming of anti-money laundering officials with new tools for investigations. But our instincts also seem to say that there is something profoundly problematic going on, even if it is hard to pin down what that is. The tech revolution can have negative consequences for issues such as human rights, democracy, government accountability and basic freedoms; these have always been closely related to corruption, but is it an intellectual leap too far to state that the emerging ‘algocracy’, as it is increasingly known, has a tendency to be corrupt?

We have witnessed the unregulated power of large companies whose complexity, innovation and corporate governance prevents traditional accountability; abuses of surveillance tech by governments and law enforcement authorities; very high spending by tech companies on political and regulatory lobbying; and ordinary people feeling helpless in the face of the power that tech gives to both companies and governments.  A heady cocktail, but not fitting traditional definitions of corruption such as ‘the abuse of entrusted power for private gain.’

My colleague at the CSC Roxana Bratu has been researching this; and other deep thinkers such as Luminate’s Martin Tisne have put in the intellectual hard yards to bring us closer to understanding what we are really dealing with.  The UK’s A-level scandal seems to bring a few of these strands together.

For those unfamiliar with the scandal, here is a re-cap.  In the absence of pupils sitting final school year exams known as A-levels due to Covid-19, the UK’s constituent governments (education is devolved) decided to use an algorithm to generate the exam results.

The Financial Times described the outcome as an ‘algoshambles.’  The algorithm was designed by the exam regulators, under governmental instruction, to replicate the national patterns of previous years.  Everyone involved was well-intentioned.  But the outcome was indeed a shambles: elite private schools were favoured; brilliant pupils from historically poorly-performing schools were automatically marked down; many pupils missed out on grades their track records had every reason to suggest they would achieve.  The national pattern was accurately replicated and the government’s aim apparently achieved; but at the cost of many cases of individual injustice.

Why talk of corruption in this context?  The reason is simple: this gives us an insight into what government by algorithm could look like, and it looks very similar to a corrupt autocracy.  Here are five corruption-flavoured take-aways from the UK’s A-level scandal which lead to that conclusion:

  1. Algorithms make government easier.  They work brilliantly for central planning and nationwide implementation of centralised policy.  Governments will therefore like them and want more of them.  They give governments more control.
  2. The blanket application of an algorithm, however well-intentioned, inevitably smooths out the nuance of individual cases; even though society is made up of individual citizens with individual circumstances, applying algorithms in such a way is a blunt but effective mechanism.
  3. Inequality can easily be worsened: it may be by accident rather than design, but very clearly, those who are already privileged or advantaged can see that significantly increased if the algorithm works only marginally in their favour.
  4. Transparency allows citizens whose lives are affected by algorithms to assess whether they are designed and applied fairly; whereas the absence of transparency leaves the victim helpless and with little recourse except through a complex, expensive (in time, and possibly money if legal challenges are involved) and soul-destroying process of appeals.
  5. Governments and agencies that use algorithms are, however, very reluctant to be transparent about them; in this case, an apparently deliberate secrecy.  And even being transparent may leave citizens confused as to how interpret or challenge an algorithm.

That all sounds as though we need good algorithms sensitively applied, not bad ones that have negative consequences.  But what – if anything – does this tell us about corruption?

One obvious thing to do when looking for abuses of power is to look at where power is concentrated.  In this case, very high levels of power (over final school exam results, potentially determining an entire career – especially if it makes the difference to being able to study medicine or going to a top university) were concentrated in the exam regulator.  Of course, that is the case in normal years, but in the Covid-19 situation, the regulator was not only deciding on exam results, but deciding on the basis of its own discretionary judgement, under governmental instruction, rather than marking an exam paper.  It was above the norm – a super-concentration of power accompanied by an absence of transparency and limited accountability (to the Minister whose policy was complicit in the shambles).

This concentration of power created a severe problem – in part, because it also represented a transfer of power away from the student sitting an exam.  In other words, there was a big power gap through simultaneously taking away power from citizens and granting more power to the government.  Perhaps the most positive thing for the A-level students was that the shambles was so obvious that it was clear the algorithm’s findings had to be over-turned.  Around forty percent of pupils received grades from the algorithm that were lower than the teacher predictions that were eventually used. It is easy to envisage a scenario in which the impact was on perhaps five percent of the cohort, which could have been swept under the carpet.  And who knows what other algorithms are already in place, and already operating like this?

What is missing here with regard to standard definitions of corruption is the ‘abuse’ of the power and any ‘private gain’.  On the contrary, the exam regulator (and/or the relevant government minister) seems to have made a massive cock-up.

So this case may not be an example of corruption, but it should send a chilling warning.  Governments in mature democracies in advanced economies can play fast and loose with algorithms in areas that have a major impact on the lives of citizens.  We have now witnessed the enormous power of these algorithms.  Imagine what an abuse of such power would look like; and imagine the possibilities for private gain of an algorithm governing access to or exclusion from healthcare, finance, the best jobs, etc.  And note also that the culpable minister only performed his u-turn to by-pass the algorithm after sustained public and media pressure.

The conclusion has to be that such algorithms are not inevitably corrupt; but the potential for abuse of power and private gain gives a glimpse of what corruption may come to look like in the twenty-first century.


No Filter: Children, Social Media and Revealing Questionable Wealth

Corrupt elites usually invest a lot of resources in hiding their illicit funds, but that clashes with their tendency – or that of their relatives – to brag on social and regular media about their riches. Joseph Sinclair and Umedjon Majidi, current students on our MA Corruption and Governance course, look at the increasing use of social media in money laundering and corruption investigations.

When Naulila Diogo flew from Luanda to New York, she might not have expected the furore that followed. She was wedding-dress shopping. To her it was normal to spend over $200,000 at the luxury dress-maker, Kleinfeld. There was no problem featuring on the popular TV show, “Say Yes to the Dress”.

She is described in the show as “…royalty in her country”. What struck Angolan viewers was that Naulila was Bornito de Sousa’s daughter. He was a cabinet minister who had boasted about not taking a government salary. He was seen as incorruptible. His daughter’s act eviscerated that image. As put by a Zimbabwean blogger, “[$200,000] is a LOT of money!! So much question is how much did the wedding cost? I can’t even imagine how lavish it was!” Although no action followed, Naulila became a symbol of the billions in missing natural resource wealth from the Angolan government’s purse in a country mired with avoidable poverty.

Others have not put their foot in it as badly as Naulila. But it is a recurring theme. Children and family members often unwittingly expose the proceeds of questionable income on social media and are increasingly becoming a valuable source for investigators. For El Chapo’s sons, Instagram was a means to show off wealth gained from trafficking drugs: guns, cars and exotic animals. For others, it seems to simply be an accurate reflection of the life they have always lived. Their selfies provide an unwitting insight into the whereabouts of syphoned funds.

Latinen and Loynes found that over one-third of adults on social media leave their pages open to the public. Speaking to the Guardian in 2016, KR Intelligence said that social media is frequently used in private litigation to provide the wherewithal to freezing and seizing assets. Often social media posts not only show what they own, but where it is being held. It might not just be the expensive car, yacht, or designer watch, but the art on the wall of a holiday home. Or the home itself.

Habitual posters can reveal behaviour patterns that pin-point people to specific locations, or provide accurate data to predict their whereabouts at a given time. Indeed, her on-going Snapchat posts were attributed to robbers in Paris discerning Kim Kardashian’s whereabouts, leading to them stealing $9m in jewellery. For the FBI, Ray Hushpuppi’s Instagram posts of lavish living to his 2.4m followers allegedly revealed his part in a $138m money laundering conspiracy.

In the UK, social media played an important role in freezing Luca Filat’s assets. His father, Moldova’s former prime minister, had been imprisoned for assisting in the theft of $1bn from three Moldovan banks, equivalent to 12.5% of the country’s GDP.

A year after his father’s arrest, Luca arrived in London to study and quickly made his mark. His lavish spending is well-reported: a £390,000 upfront payment for a penthouse in Cadogan Square and a £200,000 Bentley, among other things. Photos taken from Facebook show him spraying €500 bottles of Dom Perignon and fist bumping a friend atop a G-class Mercedes. The NCA were able to get orders against Luca’s bank accounts with a total balance of £466,321.72.

Another example is Bellingcat’s investigation following the murder of Aierken Saimaiti, the money launderer who had assisted members of the Kyrgyz elite take money from Kyrgyzstan. Saimaiti had told journalists he laundered £5.65m into the UK for the benefit of Raimbek Matraimov, the deputy chief of the Kyrgyz Customs Service. Bellingcat say he “…is notorious for his family’s lavish lifestyle, seemingly at odds with the salary of a career public servant”.

Although the family deny the allegations, credence is given to them by his son’s expensive private education and habit for expensive watches. Instagram photos show Raimbek’s son, Bakai, putting up his middle finger with a Hublot watch on his wrist. Two other photos reveal a penchant for watches valued in the tens of thousands.

Bakai and Luca show the real value of monitoring family members’ open source and social media postings in discerning the whereabouts and ownership of questionable assets. But people are getting savvy. K2 told the Guardian that the super-rich were increasingly seeking help in devising social media policies for posting content.

While investigators become entangled to their eyeballs in shell companies and structures put in place to obfuscate ownership, social media posts may yield fruit of that vital connection. They may at the very least allow inference about a lifestyle over a long period of time inconsistent with one’s known earnings. This may be of particular use in the UK when seeking unexplained wealth orders. While already significant, we are likely to see social media playing an even more important and central role in investigations in the coming years.



















Odebrecht in Mexico: a game-changing scandal?

Juan Cepeda, an alumnus of the LLM in Corruption, Law & Governance at the Centre for the Study of Corruption, looks at the Odebrecht case in Mexico.  He assesses whether the unique profile and features of the case will make it a rare example of justice triumphing over politics – concluding that international pressure may be the deciding factor.

The scandal involving Brazilian construction company Odebrecht might prove to be a game changer in the Mexican political system. The transnational nature of the case means there is a chance to break the cycle of corruption and impunity in politics and the administration of justice which all too often characterise the system in Mexico.

Odebrecht has already been convicted in multiple jurisdictions of paying bribes to gain contracts and influence. The action has now moved to Mexico, where the company is accused of paying multiple bribes to companies including Mexican oil company Pemex, some of which were then used to fund the 2012 election campaign of former President Pena Nieto.

Since we are dealing with a major transnational bribery scheme, interest in this scandal is not simply domestic. The international community will be watching closely the Odebrecht trial and will have an interest in seeing that due process is followed.  After all, Mexico was one of the earliest countries to ratify the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, and the OECD’s influential Anti-Bribery Working Group will certainly be following the progress of this high-profile trial.  External pressure may be needed to push for the Mexican state to prioritise justice over politics.

Odebrecht represents perhaps one of the most sophisticated, transnational bribery strategies ever disclosed to the public. It involved one construction firm, twelve countries from two different continents (Africa and America), and more than USD 700 million delivered to high ranked officials in order for a considerable number of bids to be illegally awarded to the company.  Apart from Mexico and Venezuela, all Latin American countries have taken legal action against presidents, former presidents, ministers, vice-ministers, and other relevant public officers.

With the legal action now moving to Mexico, it appears that we might finally be witnessing an earthquake that could shake the Mexican political system. The movement of tectonic plates started with Emilio Lozoya, former CEO of Pemex (2012-2016) and head of the foreign affairs office during Enrique Peña Nieto’s presidential campaign in 2012. Lozoya was arrested in Spain in 2019 after being accused of money laundering, bribery and criminal association linked to Odebrecht’s bribery scheme. Three weeks ago, he arrived in Mexico after being extradited to face criminal trial in Mexico City.

From the moment Lozoya arrived from Spain after spending months incarcerated, the criminal process has been highly irregular and of questionable legality.

According to the Mexican law, Lozoya should have appeared before the judiciary immediately after landing in Mexican soil. Nevertheless, the Attorney General took him directly to a hospital, arguing health issues, such as anaemia and a hernia that needed to be urgently treated. Assuming that Lozoya was in fact in such an urgent need of medical care, the law allows a judge to pay a visit to the hospital to confirm the alleged health situation of the indicted person. This didn’t happen. The prosecutor -acting irregularly- never involved the judiciary. Lozoya spent 11 days in a private hospital in Mexico City and afterwards he appeared before a judge via a Voice over IP platform, which might also constitute a violation of due process.

Furthermore, pursuant to Mexican Law, the trial must be public. However, the judiciary decided to hold the initial hearings privately. The only information available was a series of WhatsApp messages sent to the media, allegedly with substantial information from the hearings.

Additionally, the judiciary has announced that the whole process will remain closed to the public, contravening the new criminal justice system in Mexico, which, amongst other reforms, enforces public oral trials. The argument behind this decision is the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Leaks” to the media – which may themselves be grounds for contesting the result of the trial – point to a corruption scheme that involves former ministers of state, the former presidents Enrique Peña Nieto and Felipe Calderón, and several congress people. Mexico is therefore facing what could be the biggest corruption trial in its history. The question for the country and its politicians is whether justice will this time predominate over politics. The track record is not encouraging: as a general rule, Mexican politicians make use of corruption scandals for electoral purposes, for revenge against the opposition or to deter certain actors in their quest for power.  Corruption and impunity for politicians have been more common than the administration of justice in the form of fair and effective law enforcement.

Odebrecht is a milestone in the study of corruption due to the scale of the corruption, the multiple prosecutions that have happened across Latin America, and the direct lines that can be traced to the very top of politics. It is an opportunity for Mexico to prioritise the rule of law over political advantage – although the situation is complicated further by the desire of the current government to use the case to damage the opposition. The world’s attention is elsewhere at present, with Covid-19 and a US election amongst other distractions.  However, external scrutiny, and diplomatic pressure, could do a great deal of good in reinforcing democratic values and the rule of law. This is the time for the international community to step up to the plate.




The Westferry Affair – the Fallout

Recent events have focused attention on conflicts of interest and potential ‘cash for access’ in UK politics. Following his first post on the Westferry affair, Joseph Sinclair, a lawyer taking our Master’s in Corruption and Governance, examines the fall-out and wider implications.

 A Recap (see full background here)

The Conservative Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick, has been implicated in a “cash-for-favours” arrangement with Richard Desmond, a billionaire property developer. Desmond’s company, Westferry Developments, sought to build 1,524 residential units to which the London mayor and local authority had objected.

Jenrick and Desmond had sat next to one another in a £900-per-head fundraising dinner. They spoke about the development and Jenrick was shown a video. The pair texted one another after dinner. Desmond said to Jenrick: “we appreciate the speed as we don’t want to give Marxists loads of doe for nothing!” The message referred to the £45m community infrastructure levy (“CIL”) due to be paid by Desmond’s company if the development was not approved by 15 January 2020.

Documents published show that Jenrick’s office put considerable pressure on civil servants to get the decision to him before the CIL deadline. Against his department’s advice he approved the development on 14 January 2020. On 29 January, Desmond made a £12,000 donation to the Conservative Party.

The local authority took the matter to court. On agreeing to quash the decision, Jenrick’s department accepted that the fair-minded observer would conclude a real possibility of bias towards Desmond’s company.

Further Developments

Jenrick told the Commons that he made the decision with an open mind and approved it with the view to the development producing 250 “affordable homes”. The Cabinet Secretary said that the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, considered the matter closed.

Further allegations against Jenrick have been raised. In 2019, another property developer, Mark Quinn, gave the Conservative party £11,000. Shortly thereafter Jenrick’s department became involved in Quinn’s appeal against the refusal of planning permission for 675 homes in Kent. Three weeks after Jenrick’s involvement, Quinn donated a further £26,500. Jenrick denies being directly involved.

The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee wrote to Jenrick with several questions, including a request to outline the measures in place to avoid such [an] obvious conflicts of interest”. They asked Jenrick why a target of 20% of affordable homes was deemed acceptable instead of the local authority’s required 35%. Jenrick responded by saying that the plan offered 142 more homes than the original permission given by Boris Johnson as London Mayor. He went before the Housing Committee on 22 July 2020 to answer questions.

What Does the Westferry Affair Tell Us?

This had the appearance of a significant conflict of interest, meaning that Jenrick ought to have recorded the meeting and recused himself. He told the Housing Committee that he did not because he was not advised to do so. This approach to monitoring conflict does not accord with the self-governing positive obligations in the Ministerial Code. The PM’s in fully investigating Jenrick’s against the Code actions also shows serious shortcomings in its operation.

While the platitude “build build build” bounces around the Commons, we need to ask who is going to benefit. Johnson has announced “…the most radical reforms of our planning system since the end of the second world war”. His government will “…scythe through red tape”. Will we see affordable sustainable housing or a perpetuation of what we see in London: multi-million pound new-builds sitting empty?

The Conservatives have received more than £11 million in donations from property developers since Johnson became PM. The government is also being taken to court over dishing out questionable contracts for personal protective equipment. A report by the National Audit Office on the £3.6bn Towns Fund suggests pork barrel spending. The fund is intended to help struggling towns. Yet all but one of the 61 towns chosen at Jenrick’s discretion to receive support were Conservative-held or were targets seats for the election – including his own.

Desmond’s relationship with the Conservative leadership is deep-rooted. A chummy email from Desmond to Johnson revealed in an FOI request reads:

Thank you so much for your book, The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History, I will read it over the half term and when I say read I mean read. Keep in touch.

 I will see you on 22 Oct at 8 am at the Ruby Breakfast, London Hilton Park Lane, where I will be supporting you as always.

Boris’ diaries show countless opportunities for them to cross paths: Johnson had been for lunch with Desmond at Northern & Shell’s offices on 30 September 2015 and met Desmond for a drink at the Corinthian Hotel near Whitehall on 09 September 2015.

There should be real concern about the probity and motivations behind the government’s latest moves to remove ‘red tape’. Greater discretion gives the government free rein to favour their own ambitions or their cronies’.

What more does the Westfair affair tell us? Well­–

  • The public wants greater accountability

A survey commissioned by the i newspaper that found that only 23% of the public felt Jenrick should remain in the Cabinet. 41% believed that the PM backing Jenrick showed weak leadership. In a June 2020 survey of Conservative party members, Jenrick had an approval rating of -23.0% with 41.32% taking the view he should resign from government.

  • British politics is cheap, as the FT’s Henry Mance notes

Jenrick sought to approve a programme that denied £45m in CIL to one of the poorest boroughs in the UK. He argued that this was a “material change” which put the likelihood of the project in jeopardy. Whether you believe the reasons he gave or not, the Conservative coffers gained £12,000. A measly sum one might say.

  • Party fundraising remains a murky business

How Desmond and Jenrick came to sit next to one another remains a mystery. Jenrick told the Committee that he only found out he was sitting next to Desmond when he was at the table.

Members of the Conservative party have raised concerns that their co-chairman and superstar fundraiser, Ben Elliot, is not “…sufficiently careful to avoid unfortunate juxtapositions”. Elliott, the Duchess of Cornwall’s “favourite nephew”, is involved in his own scandal involving the use of public money for a “personal project”. His PR firm was previously retained by Desmond to lobby the government.

  • Measures for highlighting and resolving conflict in planning are insufficient

 Jenrick said that cases which come before him and other ministers are invariably complex. Decisions will often be based on subjective judgement which may depart from the planning inspectorate (there have been 14 such cases in the last 3 years).

In spite of this, on the decision’s face, there was no indication of Jenrick’s perceived or actual bias. It took a claim for judicial review and considerable political and public pressure to bring the light the extent and nature of Jenrick’s conflict. This clearly needs to change towards a transparent system of declaring conflicts. As the BBC’s Nick Robinson said, Jenrick has the power to back projects at the “stroke of a pen”.

‘Cash for access’ undermines the integrity of political representation. The Westferry affair embodies this notion. While the scythe is taken to the red tape, it seems that the Conservative party’s coffers and the colour of the constituency in the next election might be the prime motivations, rather than helping those in need of affordable and safe housing.