Now that he can officially be referred to as the liar he is, we call on Sunak to rescind Johnson’s shabby list of (dis)honours for cronies and fans, many of whom continue to show contempt for the work of the Privileges Committee and thus disrespect for our parliamentary democracy. Please sign this petition. Thank you. Editor-in-chief
Boris Johnson’s resignation honours list has been in the works for some time and it is rumoured there were originally one hundred names on it. Excessive, even by Johnson’s standards.
Many of the potential names had been leaked to the press, causing outrage. For example, he wanted his father, Stanley Johnson, to have a knighthood. N°10 told him it would look bad, especially as he had already elevated his brother (Lord Johnson of Marylebone) to the Lords in an attempt to heal their rift. Rishi Sunak later made a pointed comment about his dad only getting a card for Father’s Day, and that was the end of wife-beating, buttock-groping Stanley Johnson’s hopes of a knighthood. Quite right too.
Eventually, Johnson was encouraged to whittle his list down to 50 names, not least because the House of Lords Appointment Commission (HoLAC) recommended that more than half the names he put forward for peerages be rejected. This is unprecedented. Normally, the toothless HoLAC only comes out against 10 per cent of proposals, max. Former IRA backer and child porn apologist Claire Fox sailed through their vetting without demur, for example, as did the son of a former KGB London Station Chief, Evgeny Lebedev. The PM of the day is under no obligation to accept HoLAC’s recommendation, as Boris Johnson proved in 2021 when he put billionaire Tory donor John Cruddas in the Lords, despite strong opposition from HoLAC.
As a result of HoLAC’s intervention, four sitting MPs were removed from the peerage list: Nadine Dorries, MP for Mid Bedfordshire and former Secretary of State for Culture; Alok Sharma, MP for Reading West and Secretary of State for COP26; Alister Jack, MP for Dumfries and Galloway and Secretary of State for Scotland, and Nigel Adams, MP for Selby and Ainsty and a backbencher, having fulfilled junior ministerial roles prior to Liz Truss becoming PM. These MPs would have to resign their seats to take up their peerages, triggering byelections and possibly destabilising the government.
Rishi Sunak reportedly did a deal with Boris Johnson. He would wave through Johnson’s slimmed-down list as approved by HoLAC, but without the knighthood for his father, if Johnson would… At this point we can only speculate what the quid-pro-quo was, but Johnson agreeing not to hand over his WhatsApp messages to the Covid Enquiry led by Baroness Hallett is a definite possibility. Dorries and Sharma were informed that they would not now be going to the Lords on the evening of Thursday, June 8. (Presumably, Jack and Adams too.) On Friday morning, Dorries told Talk Radio, “The last thing I would want to do would be to cause a byelection in my constituency…” Johnson’s Resignation Honours List was duly published that afternoon.
While the public was digesting the insult to common decency that the list posed (of which, more anon…) and branding it the “Dishonours List”, Dorries resigned. She had found out that Boris Johnson was not going to fight the recommendation of the Privileges Committee that he be suspended for more than 10 days for contempt of parliament, automatically triggering a petition of recall in his constituency if parliament voted to accept it.
As an aside, it is important to note that it was not a foregone conclusion that the Commons would have voted to adopt the recommended sanction of the Privileges Committee, even though by composition it is majority Tory. The Tory Party had (at that point) a 65-seat majority after all and is known for going easy on the worst behaviour of its own. Johnson’s allies must have done some soundings and discovered he didn’t have the numbers to beat the rap. Rather than face a vote in parliament, a petition of recall in his constituency, and possible future vote by his constituents in a by-election, Boris Johnson resigned. It wasn’t a witch-hunt: he ran away.
Oh dear. After politicking to avoid byelections, Sunak now found himself with two on his hands. Worse, he had made King Charles look a fool by getting him to announce in the morning an honours list drawn up by a man who would resign in disgrace that afternoon. It is said that Sunak was unaware of the contents of the report of the Privileges Committee when he struck his bargain with Johnson. Only the committee and Johnson had had sight of it. If so, that was a rookie error and shows Sunak is no statesman. He lacks the political maturity to be prime minister. But hey, after the Liz Truss debacle, anyone in the Tory party with an ounce of ambition now thinks they can have a go at being PM. Braverman ahoy!
Although the situation has since become even worse, with the resignation of a third MP, Nigel Adams, who represents Selby and Ainsty, and a fourth MP said to be on resignation watch, it may be salvageable. If the list has not yet been “gazetted”, that is, published in The Gazette, the official public record, then there could be grounds to withdraw it. The Forfeiture Committee can strip an honour from an individual if they bring the Honours System into disrepute. This case is slightly different, in that it is the person who has submitted the list of honours who is disreputable, but the power of the Forfeiture Committee could conceivably be extended to take this novel step. The argument that it may set a dangerous precedent does not have much bite, since the circumstances surrounding Johnson’s list are unique. It is (hopefully) unlikely that we will ever have someone so manifestly unfit for office as Boris Johnson as our prime minister again.
Apart from the extraordinary circumstances in which the list has been issued, it is the rampant cronyism of the actual list that has caused consternation.
Shaun Bailey, Tory member of the London Assembly and failed London mayoral candidate was caught on camera at an elaborate party during lockdown. Incidentally, Ben Mallett, who ran Zac Goldsmith’s disastrously racist campaign for London Mayor in 2016, is the guy on the ground in the braces in that party photo, and he has been awarded an OBE.
On the subject of mayors, controversial Tory Tees Valley Mayor Benjamin Houchen [the subject of ongoing legal action for wasting public funds. Ed] has also been awarded a peerage — a smack in the eye for the people of the North East left reeling from the ecocide of millions of sea creatures after dredging for the local Freeport (a flagship Tory project which is yet to prove its worth) disturbed toxic sediments.
Perhaps the most bizarre new peer is Ross Kempsell, a former reporter barely in his thirties and a great friend of Carrie Johnson Ross was brought onto Johnson’s N°10 staff at her suggestion, and is now Political Director of the Conservative Party and Director of the Conservative Research Department. Unlike the other two, there are no allegations of cruelty, corruption, or criminality against him, but from a public perspective he has not yet made his mark. Four further Johnson insiders, either from his time as Mayor of London, or as prime minister, have also been given peerages: Benjamin Gascoigne; Charlotte Tranter Owen (a 29-year-old whose sole claim to fame is 18 months as a government intern/advisor); Kulveer Singh Ranger, and Daniel Rosenfield.
Damehoods and Knighthoods
If I were to ask you to put together a list of the worst MPs in this parliament, chances are proven bully Priti Patel and Andrea “eff-off” Jenkyns would be on it. As if that were not bad enough, Johnson has awarded Michelle Williams-Walker a damehood. Not a household name, for sure, and perhaps her most visible moment in the public eye was when she ran up and snatched a folder from under Johnson’s arm when he met President Zelensky in Kyiv. She was Head of Operations under Johnson at N°10 and was the one responsible for organising a disgusting drunken jamboree the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral (16/17 April 2021). She was nicknamed “DJ SWW” on the playlist. That ought to be the only title with which she is dubbed. The photo of the Queen sitting alone in St George’s Chapel at the funeral of her husband of 73 years will be one of the enduring images of the coronavirus pandemic.
Johnson further disrespects our late Queen by knighting the MP he sent to Balmoral to lie to her to secure an illegal prorogation of parliament, the South-West’s very own Jacob Rees-Mogg, MP for North East Somerset. A snapshot of him supine on the green benches of the House of Commons gave birth to thousands of memes and he became known as the MP who can lie from any position. Besides lying in both senses of the word, he is known for admitting there will be no benefits to Brexit for at least fifty years, which essentially means, there will be no benefits to Brexit.
Another of the South-West’s MPs to receive a knighthood is long-time Johnson collaborator Conor Burns, MP for Bournemouth West. He is known for having been suspended from parliament for using House of Commons letterhead to send threatening letters. A Belfast-born Catholic Unionist, Burns almost caused a diplomatic incident when he berated US President Joe Biden for his support for the Good Friday Agreement. More recently he achieved notoriety as the MP who walked in on Carrie Symonds (as she then was) performing fellatio on Johnson in his office at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. He put a more innocent spin on the incident for the benefit of the press of course, and has shown himself amenable to always coming to Johnson’s defence, no matter how ridiculous and incredible it may be. “Ambushed by cake” is one of his claims that will go down in history.
Other knighthoods include “Boris Johnson tribute act” Michael Fabricant, who behaves more like a social media troll than an MP (Lichfield), pumping out conspiracy theory bilge peddled by the likes of GBnews and the Telegraph; wasp-tongued Simon Clarke, MP for Middlesborough South and East Cleveland and former short-lived Secretary of State for Tory inside joke “Levelling Up”, and Ben Elliott, former co-chair of the Tory Party, Russophile extraordinaire, and a sort of broker for Russian access to British (Tory) politicians.
There are awards that trivialise the Honours System, such as awarding an OBE to Sarah Vaughn-Brown, Carrie Johnson’s aide whose duties include walking Dylin the dog, and an MBE to parliamentary hairdresser Kelly Jo Dodge, the surprise being that Johnson ever had a hairdresser. Then there are awards that will rub salt in the wounds caused by the Covid-19 pandemic…
A number of officials who served under Boris Johnson at Downing Street and helped convert it into a sewer of disinformation have also been honoured. Guto Harri, former N°10 Director of Communications, who days ago dismissed Johnson’s serial lying on The Newsagents podcast, is awarded a CBE. Jack Doyle and Rosie Bate-Williams, press spokespeople who repeatedly denied any parties occurred, are also rewarded for lying with a CBE. Martin Reynolds (AKA ‘party Marty’), Johnson’s former Principal Private Secretary, gets the Order of the Bath. It was he who invited 200 officials to drinks in the garden of N°10 Downing Street. He told guests to “bring your own booze”, later boasting, “We seem to have got away with it”.
Giving these people gongs is wholly inappropriate. It is a slap in the face to the Covid bereaved, to all of us who suffered under lockdown, and even to those who have paid hefty fines for lesser breaches. Johnson probably doesn’t have the moral compass to see it, but what of Rishi Sunak? He has a big decision to make this weekend: will the rot stop with him, or will he continue to allow the Honours System to be degraded?
You can still sign this petition demanding that the list is wholly rejected.