David Cameron Honours list would 'embarrass a medieval court'

Former PM uses his final honours list to reward his political allies and Conservative Party fundraisers

Andrew Grice
Thursday 04 August 2016 18:06 BST
David Cameron waves outside 10 Downing Street with his family as he leaves Downing Street
David Cameron waves outside 10 Downing Street with his family as he leaves Downing Street (Getty Images)

David Cameron has been accused of taking “cronyism” to new heights after he showered 46 of his former aides, advisers and ministers with honours in his resignation list.

Mr Cameron nominated another 13 political allies, including Tory fundraisers, for peerages.

Although a leaked version of his list provoked a storm of controversy, most of the names he put forward have been approved by Buckingham Palace. Many of those rewarded played a key role in the Remain campaign, which was on the losing side in June’s EU referendum. These awards have already been attacked as “rewards for failure.”

George Osborne, the former Chancellor who was sacked by Theresa May when she succeeded Mr Cameron as a Prime Minister, was handed the rarely-awarded Companion of Honour for outstanding public service.

Jeremy Corbyn slams David Cameron's honours list

Andrew Cook, a former Tory treasurer who has given more than £1m to the party and gave £350,000 to the Remain campaign, was awarded a knighthood “for political service.” He is the chairman of William Cook Holdings. Another businessman and Tory donor on Mr Cameron’s draft list, Vitoil Oil chief Ian Taylor, withdrew his name after it was leaked. There was no place on the final list for Michael Spencer, the former Tory treasurer and founder of Icap, which became embroiled in the Libor fixing scandal. It is believed that Mr Cameron nominated him for a peerage on three occasions and that his name was not approved by the honours scrutiny committee. There is no suggestion that Mr Spencer was personally implicated in the Libor affair.

The valedictory list will be remembered for the awards handed to Mr Cameron's inner circle and backroom advisers, who included some of his long-standing personal friends and were dubbed the “chumocracy.” Critics argue that they should not have been rewarded for merely doing their jobs. Isabel Spearman, who was Samantha Cameron’s stylist, was made an OBE, as was Thea Rogers, who gave Mr Osborne an image makeover as his chief of staff. Two of Mr Cameron’s government drivers, Sean Storey and Martha Gutierrez Velez, also received honours.

Former Chancellor George Osborne was handed the rarely-awarded Companion of Honour for outstanding public service
Former Chancellor George Osborne was handed the rarely-awarded Companion of Honour for outstanding public service (GETTY)

There were peerages for Ed Llewellyn, who was Mr Cameron’s chief of staff since he became Tory leader in 2005; Gabby Bertin, his former press secretary; Andrew Fraser, the Tory treasurer; Olivia Bloomfield, a former governor of Cheltenham Ladies’ College who raised millions for the Tories; Camilla Cavendish, who headed the Downing Street Policy Unit and Liz Sugg, who was Number 10’s head of operations.

Craig Oliver, who was Downing Street's director of communications, was given a knighthood. Other spin doctors on the list included Graeme Wilson, Helen Bower-Easton, Ramsay Jones, Alan Sendorek, Giles Kenningham and Caroline Preston. Several policy advisers also received honours.

Unusually, two members of Ms May’s Cabinet received knighthoods – Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary and Patrick McLoughlin, the Tory chairman. David Lidington, the Commons Leader who was Mr Cameron’s Minister for Europe, was made a CBE. Oliver Letwin, the Government’s former policy chief who was sacked by Ms May, was knighted. So was Hugo Swire, a former Foreign Office Minister.

Gavin Williamson, who was Mr Cameron’s parliamentary aide and is now Government Chief Whip, received a CBE. Two new dames were created – Caroline Spelman, the former Environment Secretary, and Arabella Warburton, who is chief of staff to the former Prime Minister Sir John Major.

The pro-EU campaigners on the list included Labour’s Will Straw, executive director of the Remain campaign, who was made a CBE. He is the son of the former Cabinet minister Jack Straw. Nick Herbert, a Eurosceptic Tory MP who urged an In vote in the referendum, received the same honour. Charlotte Vere, executive director of Conservatives In, was made a peer.

For a prime minister who promised to cut the cost of politics, David Cameron is leaving a big bill for the taxpayer as he leaves office

&#13; <p>Katie Ghose, chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society</p>&#13;

Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader, said: “David Cameron’s resignation honours list is so full of cronies it would embarrass a medieval court. He is not the first Prime Minister to leave office having rewarded quite so many friends, but he should be the last. For the reputation of future leaders, such appointments should be handed over to an independent panel.“

Tommy Sheppard, the SNP's Cabinet Office spokesman, said: “This list confirms what we already knew - the Westminster honours system is rotten to the core.The former Prime Minister has well and truly overstepped the mark of acceptability with these awards by choosing to use his resignation to hand out knighthoods and honours as a form of personal patronage.”

Katie Ghose, chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said: “For a prime minister who promised to cut the cost of politics, David Cameron is leaving a big bill for the taxpayer as he leaves office. His parting gift of 16 Lords is a sorry legacy, both in terms of cost to the taxpayer and the quality of our democracy. Mr Cameron’s Lords legacy could have been about real, democratic reform. Instead, he has unfortunately chosen to follow the well-trodden route of every other PM and packed the second chamber with former politicians, donors and party hacks. These unelected peers will cost the taxpayer millions over the long term – hardly a fitting goodbye.”

Peerages also went to Shami Chakrabarti, former director of the Liberty human rights group, who was nominated by Jeremy Corbyn even though his deputy Tom Watson urged Labour to boycott the honours system after the row over Mr Cameron's farewell list.

There are two new crossbench peers – Sir Nicholas Macpherson, the former Permanent Secretary at the Treasury, and Sir Peter Ricketts, the former National Security Adviser.

A spokesman for Mr Corbyn said: “Shami Chakrabarti shares Jeremy’s ambition for reform of the House of Lords. Her career has been one of public service and human rights advocacy. Her legal and campaigning skills, and the trust that she has gained from many ordinary Britons, will be a considerable asset to the House of Lords.”

Ms Chakrabarti said: “I am honoured to accept Jeremy Corbyn’s challenge and opportunity to help hold the Government to account. This is a dangerous moment for our country and we share vital human rights values that need defending more than ever before in my lifetime.”

An outgoing prime minister has the right to propose a resignation honours list to Buckingham Palace. Although Ms May has drawn a line under the “chumocracy” of the Cameron era, she refused to intervene to block any of his proposed honours, arguing that this would set a bad precedent. However, she may seek to reform the system.

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