David Cameron’s contribution to the continued debasement of the honour system is a stark reminder of his many broken promises. In opposition he promised to deal with the perceived sleaze of Westminster and to end “sofa government”, instead he carried on the New Labour culture of cronyism.
Tony Blair stuffed the House of Lords with Labour loyalists and apparatchik and awarded party donors with peerages and knighthoods. This has contributed to public mistrust of politicians and resentment of the system. This sense of bitterness and detachment is toxic and sadly in office David Cameron has merely aggravated it.
It is clear that the public’s suspicion of the political class contributed to the vote for Brexit that ended Cameron’s premiership but his final act in office he has paid this no mind and further tarnished his already stained legacy.
According to the leaked list, prominent campaigners to remain in the EU are allegedly in line for knighthoods in a resignation honours list that also awards 48 aides, allies and Tory donors. Cameron has requested knighthoods for two main Tory donors who have together given more than £3m to the party and the remain campaign. 24 members of Cameron’s Downing Street entourage including 20 special advisers and, ludicrously, his wife Samantha’s stylist, Isabel Spearman, and two of his drivers are all to be honoured.
George Osborne is to be awarded the Companion of Honour, a member of an order founded in 1917, for distinguished achievement, with membership limited to sixty-five people. This is generally reserved for people of people of the stature of Winston Churchill, Sir Henry Wood, Laurence Binyon, Dame Vera Lynn and Sir David Attenborough, to name a few… what has George Osborne done to join such people of rare distinction? What are the distinguished achievements of the man who made his country grovel to the squalid police state of China, rolled out the red carpet for oligarchs and corrupted out democracy to sell out to the EU?
During his failed referendum campaign he disgraced his office, converting the Treasury into a propaganda machine and committing acts of economic self-harm to try and compel the public to vote Remain. Throughout his time as Chancellor he proved himself to be far more interested in constructing a power base and clearing his way to number 10 then doing his job, which was to balance the books and consolidate our fragile economic recovery.
Osborne’s policies were often aimed at garnering headlines and getting one over the opposition more than improving the health of our fiscal situation. In his megalomania, he increasingly tinkered in other areas of policy beyond his remit as part of his political machinations. He should have been concentrating on ensuring we continued to recover from the economic crisis. As it is he missed every target, left a £73 billion deficit and increased the national debt. No matter, jobs for the boys and awards for your cronies was part and parcel of Cameron’s Conservative Party.
He has even honoured Will Straw, director of the “remain” campaign, who was a failed Labour candidate and is the son of party grandee Jack Straw. For what? Losing a referendum campaign? This is a man who was recorded on tape clearly saying that remain campaigners should exploit the “new context” created by the murder of Jo Cox.
This is yet another example of why the system is in desperate need of reform. It has become a means of handing out political patronage for the prime minister; it should be used to reward the unsung heroes of the country and those who have made an outstanding contribution to society. I don’t believe Will Straw, Samantha Cameron’s stylist or Cameron’s drivers really qualify, nor should rich donors be able to but their way in. It devalues it for the truly deserving.
I have no idea why some people are so shocked our former leader’s behaviour. This is the man who awarded his barber an MBE in 2014 for ‘services to hairdressing’ for goodness sake! Contrary to his early promises, his government was characterised by cronyism in exactly the same style as his political idol Tony Blair. He surrounded himself with friends from his days at Eton and Oxford, such as Ed Llewellyn and Lord Feldman. He further weakened proper Cabinet government by making policy behind closed doors with his advisers and holding meetings with his aides on the sofas of No10. This is a dangerous recipe for “group think” which makes for bad policy and bad government.
If Theresa May was to restore genuine Cabinet government, clean up the culture of cronyism and move the Conservative Party away from the Blairite model; it will count among her crowning achievements whatever else she does.
The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty