The fact it was made by Lord Theodore Agnew, minister responsible for counter-fraud until he resigned over the issue on Monday, means it is an allegation that should be treated most seriously.
Writing in the Financial Times, he said: “The failure of government in tackling fraud is, I believe, so egregious and the need for remedy so urgent that, in the end, I felt the only option was to smash some crockery to get people to take notice. Fraud in government is rampant.”
He agreed that government loans to help businesses during the Covid crisis had necessarily been rolled out quickly, but added the “cack-handed implementation and catastrophic follow-through” was costing taxpayers “probably hundreds of millions of pounds a month”.
That such vast amounts of public money are being wasted is utterly intolerable and, as Prime Minister, the buck stops with Johnson.
But then a Prime Minister twice sacked for dishonesty, who illegally prorogued parliament, then had to deny lying to the Queen about it, whose memory lapses over how the redecoration of his Downing Street flat was funded stretched credibility, and who chose to attend lockdown-breaking parties, may not be the ideal person to look to for guidance.
And the lack of strong, moral leadership can have a corrosive effect on not just good governance, but society as a whole. Those defrauding the government may have cynically concluded that with so many people ‘at it’, they should also profit at our expense.
The danger that we, the voters, must guard against is that we become inured to the steady stream of revelations, accusations and denials. Instead of responding with our own weary cynicism and concluding that politicians are ‘all the same’, we need to treat each new development with the degree of outrage that it deserves.
If we acquiesce to the idea that law-makers can be law-breakers, there is a risk this could become the natural state of affairs. And that would lead this country down a very dangerous path.