• The dubious ‘honours’ system and why it needs to be cleaned up

    9th August 2016 | News | Claire
  • Mr Swire’s honour was part of a litany of knighthoods and peerages, awarded largely, to Mr Cameron’s friends, political allies and conservative party donors.

    As part of his resignation honours Mr Cameron created 13 Tory life peers, and handed honours to cabinet ministers, Michael Fallon, Patrick McLoughlin and former ministers Oliver Letwin and Hugo Swire, as well as former chancellor George Osborne.

    Last month Mr Swire wrote on his blog that he was to join his “close friends” David Cameron and George Osborne on the back benches, after the loss of his ministerial position.

    Bizarrely, even Mrs Cameron’s stylist, whose salary was paid for by taxpayers, will receive an OBE.

    The response to Mr Farron’s tweet from one or two of Mr Swire’s MP friends were revealing.  Nicholas Soames (grandson of Winston Churchill) suggested that Mr Farron’s tailor might like to check his other shoulder for a chip….. How many of us can afford to have our suits specially tailored I wonder!

    Other colleagues are desperately and unsuccessfully attempting to pitch the issue as a “non story.”

    But the honours list has been roundly condemned by many in public life, including by the chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society who pointed out the huge tax bill that will result from the creation of 13 more lords.

    And the local reaction was not particularly positive either. When I posted the news on my own political Facebook page, many people were asking what had Mr Swire done to receive such an honour.

    Back to Mr Farron’s sarcastic tweet, Mr Swire replied that Mr Farron was “tiresome and sanctimonious” comparing him with the former chairman of the committee of standards in public life, Sir Alistair Graham, who has been publicly critical of MPs who break the rules.

    And this is a news story that doesn’t look as though it will be forgotten very quickly.  Bernard Jenkin, the chair of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, has now called for members to investigate the list and the nomination of 13 new peers when Parliament is recalled in September.

    I believe that the honours system should be reserved for those people who have given exceptional public service for the greater good.

    I am not convinced that an MP, who to my knowledge, has never voted against the party line to support his constituents should qualify.

    To avoid this sort of thing happening in the future, I firmly believe that peerages and other honours should be awarded by an independent panel, not by a political figure who appears to be determined to flood the decision-making elite with people who are as wealthy and privileged as he is, as well most likely to rubber stamp conservative party policy.