Scottish Daily Mail
A GONG IF YOU BACK STAYING IN THE EU
Fury as PM’s ‘In’ supporters get honours
DAVID Cameron has used today’s Queen’s birthday honours to dish out gongs to Remain supporters.
At least 20 business chiefs and luvvies backing his campaign to keep Britain in the EU have been handed knighthoods or other accolades.
Gisela Stuart, a senior Labour MP, described the situation as ‘bordering on the corrupt’. Among those handed a knighthood is Damon Buffini, a private equity boss who has helped bankroll the In campaign. Fellow donor John Armitage receives a CBE.
Prominent individuals who signed pro-Brussels letters co-ordinated by Downing Street have also been
honoured. They include Innocent drinks founder Richard Reed, who is deputy chairman of Britain Stronger in Europe.
Mr Reed, who describes the EU as ‘fantastic’, is rewarded with a CBE.
Downing Street last night denied handing out honours in return for support in the referendum battle.
But the honours list appears to confirm predictions from former British Chambers of Commerce boss John Longworth, who quit his post after No 10 complained about his pro-Brexit stance.
He said in March that Downing Street had a number of ways of persuading business chiefs to sign supportive letters, including the offer of honours.
‘Some organisations want a government contract,’ he said. ‘You can go down the list. Some corporate chiefs want a gong. Others are foreign or multinational and other pressure can be applied.’
Mrs Stuart, who chairs the Vote Leave campaign, accused Mr Cameron of abusing the power of patronage to skew the referendum debate in his favour.
‘David Cameron and George Osborne have used every single ounce of their power to try to bully and frighten the British people into backing their campaign to keep us in the EU,’ she said. ‘But abusing our honours system to reward campaign cronies and donors is a new low.
‘People in this country are sick of the Establishment doing these shabby stitch-ups and will view this as bordering on the corrupt.’
No 10 rejected the claims, pointing out that the honours lists were drawn up in January and February before the campaign had started.
A Government source said: ‘This is an independent process and people from both sides of the campaign have received honours.’
The source pointed out that a small number of pro-Brexit figures have handed gongs, including donor Paul Marshall, who is a supporter of the academy schools programme, and the Eurosceptic MPs Desmond Swayne and Jeffrey Donaldson.
But Brexit supporters are dwarfed by the number of pro-EU figures on the list. Signatories of letters co-ordinated by Downing Street appear to have done particularly well. Three business chiefs who signed a letter to the Times have been honoured, as have two others whose firms supported the letter.
They include Weir Group chief executive Keith Cochrane, who is made a CBE, and Ocado online supermarket founder Tim Steiner, who receives an OBE. Fujitsu UK chairman Simon Blagden and BP regional president Trevor Garlick, whose firms signed the letter, were also honoured.
Supporters of a pro-EU open letter from members of the creative industries have also done well, with four signatories picking up honours.
Beneficiaries include actor Brian Blessed, who was made an OBE.
Six signatories of a pro-EU letter from entrepreneurs to the Financial Times were also honoured, as were signatories to letters from health experts and scientists.
John Kingman, who was acting permanent secretary at the Treasury for much of the campaign was knighted.
Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith told the Mail: ‘It’s been going on behind closed doors. Downing Street’s operation has been to mercilessly bully and flatter businesses. Business leaders have been promised all sorts of stuff.’
But Sir Ian Cheshire, who chairs the honours committee’s economy section, said: ‘This idea of a darkened room and stitch-up is not the case. It’s not some sort of secret society. It’s about recognising role models. We are extremely independent.’