Zac Goldsmith to be awarded peerage and place in House of Lords by Tories despite losing seat as MP for second time in three years

‘Our second chamber should not be some absurd insurance policy for trounced MPs,’ says Electoral Reform Society

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Wednesday 18 December 2019 17:20
Dominic Cummings talks about whacking people in the House of Lords in 2014 speech

Defeated Tory MP Zac Goldsmith will be handed a peerage alongside the new year honours list, under No 10’s plan, despite growing criticism that it will be a reward for failure.

The Independent understands the award is not being fast-tracked – unlike the gong that saw Nicky Morgan sent to the House of Lords – but is expected to be announced alongside others next month.

Government sources have also downplayed suggestions that Mr Goldsmith’s complicated tax history, as a former “non-dom” and son of a billionaire, will hold up the process.

“There’s no issue, we expect it will go through in normal time,” the source said, referring to the House of Lords Commission which vets all appointments.

The peerage will allow Mr Goldsmith to continue as environment minister, reflecting his passion for green issues, despite his election defeat last week – the second time he has been voted out of the Commons.

The Electoral Reform Society has condemned the move as a mockery of democracy, when “the bloated House of Lords is already packed full of defeated and former MPs”.

“Politicians shouldn’t be rewarded with votes on our laws for life, after losing their seat,” said Darren Hughes, its chief executive.

“This issue we’ve seen across parties for years, and makes an absolute joke of democratic accountability. Our second chamber should not be some absurd insurance policy for trounced MPs.”

Mr Goldsmith – defeated by the Liberal Democrats in Richmond Park, southwest London – held non-domiciled status, allowing him to reduce his tax bills, until he became an MP.

Educated at Eton, he is the son of the billionaire businessman and financier Sir James Goldsmith, whose Referendum Party championed the Eurosceptic cause in the 1990s.

The 44-year-old is also a close friend of Carrie Symonds, Boris Johnson’s girlfriend, and is known to want to retain the environment post he only took on last July.

The Independent understands that No 10 believes it has “used up its capital” by, controversially, pushing through the Morgan peerage in a single day.

Nevertheless, it intends for Mr Goldsmith to be sent to the Lords at the start of the new year and for him to keep the environment brief.

Despite once vowing to end “cronyism”, Mr Johnson is expected to create a sizeable number of peers, in a list that will combine a set of dissolution honours with political appointments.

It is expected to include Gisela Stuart, the former Labour MP, a Vote Leave supporter, who took to the campaign trail alongside Mr Johnson before last Thursday’s election.

The prime minister is said to want to boost the anti-EU presence in the upper chamber, which repeatedly amended Brexit legislation to the government’s fury in the previous parliament.

Other ex-Labour MPs who could be elevated to the House of Lords include Kate Hoey, and Ian Austin, who voted for Theresa May‘s deal and quit the party.

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