Peerages for PM’s brother, Tory grandees and Brexit backers

Jo Johnson, Ken Clarke and Sir Ian Botham
Jo Johnson, Ken Clarke and Sir Ian Botham
18:26pm, Fri 31 Jul 2020
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The Prime Minister has nominated his brother Jo Johnson, several Tory grandees and his chief strategic adviser for peerages, while numerous Brexit-backers are also set for the Lords.

Ex-England cricket player Sir Ian Botham, who supported the Leave campaign, newspaper owner Evgeny Lebedev and former leader of the Scottish Conservatives Ruth Davidson were also among 36 new peerages on Friday.

Philip May, the husband of Theresa May, Boris Johnson’s predecessor in Downing Street, will receive a knighthood “for political service”.

The peerage list includes former MPs who rebelled against the Labour position to back Brexit, including Kate Hoey, Ian Austin, Frank Field and Gisela Stuart.

But Mr Johnson did pick Conservative former chancellors Ken Clarke and Philip Hammond for peerages, after he stripped the Tory whip from them after they defied him over Brexit.

He also selected his own brother Jo, who dealt his older sibling a major blow in resigning from his Cabinet citing “the national interest”.

And Mr Johnson nominated his chief strategic adviser Sir Edward Lister, a long-term ally of the Prime Minister who supported him as London mayor.

Mr Johnson was quickly accused of cronyism by elevating his allies and the Lord Speaker, Lord Fowler, accused the Prime Minister of “a massive policy U-turn” by further swelling the upper chamber’s size.

By giving a large number of his cronies peerages, he has shown that the Tories have abandoned any pretence of reducing the size of the bloated House of Lords

Others to get nominations include Charles Moore, the former Daily Telegraph editor and Margaret Thatcher biographer, and Claire Fox, who was a Brexit Party MEP.

Mr Lebedev, the son of a former KGB operative, owns the Independent and Evening Standard – and has long been a friend of Mr Johnson.

Conservative former MPs Sir Henry Bellingham, Nicholas Herbert, Mark Lancaster, Sir Patrick McLoughlin and Ed Vaizey also made the Prime Minister’s list.

Nigel Dodds was nominated as the former Westminster leader of the DUP.

Lord Fowler, a former Conservative cabinet minister, said the House will “soon be nearly 830 strong”, accusing Mr Johnson of “the abandonment of an established policy” to reduce its size.

Theresa May with her husband Philip (PA Archive)

“It is also a vast pity that the list has been announced within the first few days of the summer recess when neither House is sitting, and the Government cannot be challenged in Parliament,” he continued.

The Liberal Democrats’ leader in the Lords, Lord Newby, added: “By giving a large number of his cronies peerages, he has shown that the Tories have abandoned any pretence of reducing the size of the bloated House of Lords.”

SNP MP Pete Wishart said the move was “the worst kind of cronyism”, as he accused the Prime Minister of giving jobs for life to “friends and those who have done him favours”.

Notable absentees from the list include Labour’s former deputy leader Tom Watson and the last Commons speaker John Bercow despite it being tradition that the Government puts the retiring speaker’s name forward for a peerage.

They were reported to have been nominated by former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

But Mr Bercow was said to have been rejected by the independent Lords appointment commission because of a series of bullying claims, which he denied.

Darren Hughes, the chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said: “By appointing a host of ex-MPs, party loyalists and his own brother, the PM is inviting total derision. That he can get away with it shows what a private members club this House is.”

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