The Independent

Why is there an argument over Johnson’s honours list?

Andrew Grice on the relevance of the former PM’s rumoured comeback plans in the row about knighthood­s and peerages


A wrangle over the list of honours Boris Johnson is allowed to announce as a departing prime minister has dragged on for several months.

Why has it proved controvers­ial?

Johnson’s proposed list provoked controvers­y because it was said to include about 100 names – more than David Cameron’s

59 nomination­s, Theresa May’s 51, John Major’s 50 and Margaret Thatcher’s 42.

However, it now seems that Johnson has bowed to pressure from government officials by trimming his list to about 50. It is still being vetted by the Cabinet Office, which carries out “probity and propriety checks” on those nominated. This is different from the process for other honours, in which nomination­s by the government and the public are assessed by committees of independen­t experts and senior civil servants.

A spokespers­on for Johnson said: “We do not comment on honours.” But one ally said: “The list is [now] shorter than David Cameron’s or Theresa May’s so everyone can relax.”

The ally cast doubt on reports that Johnson had put forward his father Stanley for a knighthood – a suggestion met with widespread outrage, producing 230,000 signatures on The Independen­t’s petition. Robert Jenrick, the immigratio­n minister and a close ally of Rishi Sunak, has said it would not be “wise” for a prime minister to include family members in an honours list.

What other stumbling blocks are there?

The revised list may not end the political row. It is believed that Johnson has again proposed a peerage for Paul Dacre, editor-inchief of Daily Mail publisher DMG Media, despite doubts expressed last year by the House of Lords appointmen­ts commission, which vets nomination­s for peerages.

Johnson wants to award peerages to four MPs: Nadine Dorries, the former culture secretary; Alister Jack, the current Scotland secretary; Alok Sharma, who served as president of the Cop26 climate summit; and Nigel Adams, another former minister. In a break with precedent, he wants to allow them to delay taking their seats in the House of Lords until after the general election, which would spare the Tories four parliament­ary by-elections – but critics say the move would draw the King into politics; the monarch formally approves honours after they are proposed by the current prime minister.

David Ross, the founder of Carphone Warehouse and a Tory donor, is thought likely to receive a peerage. He was embroiled in controvers­y after facilitati­ng a £15,000 holiday in Mustique for Carrie and Boris Johnson.

An outgoing prime minister does not have to issue a resignatio­n honours list. Tony Blair did not exercise his right to one. Nor did Gordon Brown, although 16 Labour politician­s appeared in the dissolutio­n honours list to mark parliament being dissolved for the 2010 general election.

Cameron revived resignatio­n honours in 2016, provoking controvers­y by including Tory party donors, advisers, and his wife Samantha’s stylist. The outcry was such that Paul Bew, then chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, said he hoped Cameron’s list would be the last.

What could happen next?

Johnson’s list will be unusual in the sense that some allies harbour hopes – as perhaps he does himself – that he will make a remarkable return to Downing Street. Normally, a list is seen as a farewell gesture from a senior politician as they depart the stage. Johnson’s list would raise a different issue of propriety, in that critics could argue that he was rewarding people who might in return aid his comeback.

Sunak could avoid controvers­y, and win some credit with voters, by rejecting Johnson’s list and scrapping this archaic example of patronage. But that would anger Johnson and his fan club, and might reduce the incentive for other Tory MPs to remain loyal to the Sunak government. A slimmed-down Johnson list is more likely.

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 ?? (Reuters) ?? Boris Johnson has caused a fuss by reported l y nominating his father for a knighthood
(Reuters) Boris Johnson has caused a fuss by reported l y nominating his father for a knighthood

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