The news that Boris Johnson has reportedly put his own father forward for a knighthood as part of his resignation honours list has reignited accusations of cronyism at the apex of British politics.
According to The Times, Stanley Johnson, a former MEP and conservationist, is among as many as 100 names put forward by the former prime minister for cabinet office vetting.
It is convention that the outgoing PM is allowed to draw up a list of people they believe should gain knighthoods, damehoods and seats in the House of Lords. Upon their respective resignations, Theresa May nominated 60 people for titles whereas David Cameron put 62 names forward.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said it would be “absolutely outrageous” if Johnson had indeed nominated his father for a knighthood.
“It’s classic of a man like Johnson. I mean, I think the public will just think this is absolutely outrageous. The idea of an ex-prime minister bestowing honours on his dad — for services to what?”, the Labour leader said during an LBC Radio phone-in.
Johnson has a penchant for apportioning titles among family members and political allies. He faced similar accusations of cronyism in 2020 after he nominated his brother Jo Johnson, a former MP and minister, for a peerage in 2020. He is now Lord Johnson of Marylebone.
Johnson also elevated two close friends, the former Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith and the controversial newspaper proprietor Evgeny Lebedev, to the UK’s upper chamber.
Alongside his father, others tipped for an elevation to the Lords in Johnson’s latest list are Ross Kempsell, who worked for Conservative central office as well as for Johnson, and Charlotte Owen, one of the ex-prime minister’s former assistants who is understood to be in her late 20s. Owen would be one of the youngest life peers ever.
Previous reports have also suggested that close political allies in former culture secretary Nadine Dorries, former COP president Alok Sharma, current Scottish secretary Alister Jack and former minister Nigel Adams will become Lords.
Ms Dorries recently announced that she would not stand as an MP for the next election, telling her own TalkTV programme: “I’m now off. Oh gosh, I’ve just said it out loud, there’s no going back now”.
When it was suggested to her that suggested that she may be in line for a peerage as part of Johnson’s resignation honours list, Dorries told her show: “I have heard nothing … I’m just getting through the emotional aspect of leaving a job I loved for 19 years”.
She even said that the former prime minister had urged her to stay on, saying: “He doesn’t want me to go … he said: ‘Nads, stay’”.
Alister Jack served loyally as Scottish secretary under Johnson and was one of few cabinet colleagues, alongside Dorries, who lined up outside Downing Street to applaud the outgoing PM’s final speech.
Alok Sharma, the former COP26 president, backed Johnson’s second bid to win the keys to No 10 in October, supporting Johnson stolidly through a scandal-plagued 2022.
Nigel Adams MP served as a minister without portfolio under Johnson from 2021-2022 and, in 2016, was a key figure in Johnson’s ill-fated first bid to become prime minister. He announced his intention to stand down at the next general election in April 2022.
Another tipped for elevation to the Lords is Ben Houchen, who would hold the title concurrently with his current post of Tees Valley Mayor.
Shaun Bailey, who ran for London Mayor in 2020, may also be in line for a peerage according to reports. Bailey quit as chairman of the London assembly’s police and crime committee after a photograph emerged of him breaking Covid rules at a lockdown party based in CCHQ.
Former editor of the Daily Mail Paul Dacre was widely tipped last year to be awarded a place in the UK’s second chamber. The Telegraph reported that Dacre was among a number of “Brexit-backing Conservatives who supported Boris Johnson” to be in line for a peerage. Johnson apparently reneged on this commitment at the time, but speculation remains rife that Dacre could be honoured in Johnson’s resignation honours list.