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New year honours: Brexiteer Tory MP John Redwood handed knighthood by Theresa May

Critics accused the PM of doling out honours to pressure MPs to vote for her Brexit deal

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
,Lizzy Buchan
Friday 28 December 2018 23:33 GMT
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Leading Brexiteer John Redwood is among three MPs handed knighthoods in the new year honours list, only weeks before a crunch Commons vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

Mr Redwood was among the Eurosceptic cabinet ministers famously described as “bastards” by former prime minister Sir John Major for undermining him over the Maastricht Treaty in 1993, which helped to create the European Union.

The outspoken Conservative MP was ennobled alongside Tory former minister Gary Streeter and Labour’s deputy chief whip Alan Campbell, in a list that also honoured celebrities, community leaders and heroes of the 2017 terror attacks.

Mr Redwood’s honour drew claims Ms May was “dangling a knighthood or two in front of MPs” to win support for her Brexit deal, which is due to be voted on in January.

It comes in the wake of a row over the prime minister’s decision to award a knighthood to veteran Eurosceptic John Hayes in November – bringing the total number of MPs given the honour since Ms May came to power to 13.

There was huge controversy last year when four Tory MPs – all of whom had backed Leave in the 2016 referendum – were awarded knighthoods or damehoods.

They included Graham Brady, the chairman of the powerful backbench 1922 Committee, who went on to play a crucial role when his fellow Conservatives finally triggered a vote of no confidence in the prime minister.

In an attempt to reassure supporters of his convictions, Mr Redwood published a blog days before the honour outlining, “Eight things wrong with the withdrawal agreement”.

The former banker, who ran the Downing Street policy unit under Margaret Thatcher, said the knighthood was “a great honour”.

An early supporter of a referendum on Europe, Mr Redwood, 67, has fought for a clean break from the EU, which he said should be “quick and easy”.

However, Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran said the move “brings dishonour on the honours system”.

“I cannot see how it is anything but a desperate attempt to blunt criticism of the prime minister’s Brexit deal by dangling a knighthood or two in front of MPs,” the Best for Britain supporter said.

“This is all happening just a couple of weeks before the critical Brexit vote.”

Mr Streeter, 63, who voted Remain in 2016, has spoken out in favour of the prime minister’s Brexit deal.

The former minister, who has represented Plymouth Sutton since 1992 and then South West Devon since 1997, said: “I am deeply honoured.

“As far as I am concerned, I want to dedicate the award to my wife and family for supporting me through the last quarter of a century at Westminster, which has involved sacrifice on their part.”

Long-serving Labour whip Mr Campbell also received a knighthood, which he welcomed as a recognition of his work in his Tynemouth constituency.

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Whitehall honours included a knighthood for Roy Stone after more than 40 years in the civil service under seven prime ministers, and a CBE for Ms May’s deputy principal private secretary, William Macfarlane.

Around 70 per cent of awards were handed to people who have undertaken outstanding work in or for their local community.

But there are also plenty of famous names, including a damehood for model, actress and singer Twiggy and knighthoods for record-breaking former England cricket captain Alastair Cook and award-winning author Philip Pullman.

Meanwhile, Downing Street also announced on Friday that senior Tories Sir Edward Leigh, Sir Roger Gale and former minister Philip Dunne has been appointed to the Privy Council, an administrative body that advises the Queen.

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