Philip Pullman: ministers should face charges if Brexit politics slowed PPE | Books

Philip Pullman has said that the UK government “should be arraigned on charges of conspiracy to murder” if it is found that “for Brexit-related reasons” MPs did not take part in the EU procurement scheme to buy PPE.

The government has previously said it was unable to join the EU schemes as it had not received an email of invitation. But the Guardian revealed last week that the UK missed three opportunities to be part of the EU scheme to bulk-buy masks, gowns and gloves.

In a bitingly critical essay published by Penguin, the author of His Dark Materials says the entire front bench should resign if it is found to be true that MPs declined to participate “for Brexit-related reasons”. But Pullman predicted that no resignations would follow because the MPs responsible “have not a single grain of shame”.

“So they should be arraigned on charges of conspiracy to murder. Nothing less will do. They knew the risks, and thought they’d rather appease the foaming zealots of Brexit,” writes the novelist, who has described Brexit as a catastrophe in the past.

The essay says that the profound change of circumstances means we should now hold back on leaving the EU. “There are so many clear advantages to being in the EU, and the benefits of leaving are so tenuous and fanciful, that we must revisit the referendum and hope that this time the Labour party under a new leader will play a proper part in the argument; and that the lies, the cheating, the flagrant and shameless mendacity will be fully exposed by a strong, passionate, and focused campaign to remain,” says Pullman.

A long-time critic of the Conservative government, Pullman lays out his belief that “we must burn out the old corruption and establish a better way of living together”.

“It’s all got to change,” he writes. “If we come out of this crisis with all the rickety, fly-blown, worm-eaten old structures still intact, the same vain and indolent public schoolboys in charge, the same hedge fund managers stuffing their overloaded pockets with greasy fingers, our descendants will not forgive us.”

The essay is part of a new series from Penguin authors, Perspectives, offering their responses to Covid-19. Philosopher AC Grayling has written about how the philosophy of the Stoics can guide us through the crisis, Holocaust survivor Edith Eger on how we can find strength in the midst of it, and Malorie Blackman on how the pandemic should lead us to a fairer society. Penguin says the series is intended to follow in the spirit of its founder Allen Lane, who set up the publisher in 1935 “to ensure everyone had access to the greatest minds, stories and ideas through affordable and high quality books”.

“No more important is this than in times of unprecedented crisis,” the publisher said.

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