Honours for Compensation
“We believe that no-one should be honoured for simply ‘doing the day job’, no matter what that job is,” said Bernard Jenkin last week on behalf of the Public Administration Select Committee. He went on: "The public values the honours system, and it commands a significant degree of public confidence, but people still say that honours appear to be awarded through a mysterious process by the various committees to the usual suspects they already know."
So it comes as something of a surprise to hear that sundry sacked ministers have been given an immediate honour as some sort of compensation for their dismissal in the reshuffle. The full list of Ministers who have (been) resigned from government is:
1 Rt Hon Caroline Spelman MP (DEFRA)
2 Rt Hon Cheryl Gillan MP (Wales)
3 Rt Hon Sir George Young Bt MP (Leader of the House) <-- Companion of Honour
4 Rt Hon Lord Howell of Guildford (FCO)
5 Rt Hon Nick Herbert MP (Home Office)
6 Rt Hon James Paice MP (DEFRA) <-- Knighthood
7 Paul Burstow MP (Health) <-- Privy Council
8 Nick Gibb MP (Education)
9 Nick Harvey MP (Defence) <-- Knighthood
10 Charles Hendry MP (DECC)
11 Lord Henley (Home Office)
12 Henry Bellingham MP (FCO)
13 Crispin Blunt MP (Justice)
14 Jonathan Djanogly MP (Justice)
15 Gerald Howarth MP (Defence) <-- Knighthood
16 Tim Loughton MP (Education)
17 Peter Luff MP (Defence)
18 Bob Neill MP (DCLG)
19 Stephen O’Brien MP (DfID)
20 John Penrose MP (DCMS)
21 Andrew Stunell OBE MP (DCMS) <-- Privy Council
22 Sarah Teather MP (Education)
23 Baroness Wilcox (BIS)
24 Edward Garnier QC MP (Solicitor General) <-- Knighthood
25 James Duddridge MP (Whip)
26 Michael Fabricant MP (Whip)
27 Brooks Newmark MP (Whip)
28 Angela Watkinson MP (Whip)
29 Bill Wiggin MP (Whip)
His Grace was initially delighted for Gerald Howarth in particular, who has long been a staunch defender of true conservatism. But as he pondered, it became apparent that this is actually a flagrant abuse of the honours system: when have knighthoods ever been dispensed as compensation for dismissal? Of course, the Prime Minister will repudiate any such suggestion, yet the timing is inescapable: one would expect 'rewards' to be bestowed after a dignified passage of time; perhaps in the New Year, at the earliest.
Honours lists are usually drawn up to commemorate the Queen's (official) birthday or the New Year. There are occasional 'special' lists, like those for the Queen's Golden or Diamond jubilees. And it has long been customary for departing prime ministers to honour those who have served them in office, the most notorious being Harold Wilson's 'Lavender List'.
Some of these honours are doubtless deserved. But with knighthoods for both Gerald Howarth and Nick Harvey as they leave Dfence, poor Peter Luff must be wondering what he's done wrong. He ticked all the right boxes - distinguished service as an MP, Europhile, dedicated, loyal... yet no 'K' for him. And what has Nick Harvey done that Cheryl Gillan hasn't? Indeed, why have no women been honoured at all?
Doesn't the whiff of a LibDem honours quota rather undermine Nick Clegg's indignation at the abuse of patronage in the House of Lords? Buying off one's MPs with a 'K' is really no better than packing them off to another place with a 'P'.
And His Grace also notes that Lord Ashcroft has been appointed to the Privy Council: The Right Honourable The Lord Ashcroft PC KCMG. He has, of course, donated £millions to the Conservative Party, and has been treated appallingly by David Cameron. Honours for conscience assuagement?