Labour last night promised there would be no resignation honour’s list issued by Keir Starmer if he were to become prime minister, as outrage grew over the list of peerages, knighthoods and other rewards showered by Liz Truss on those associated with her disastrous 49 days in office.
Shadow leader of the House, Lucy Powell, told the Observer: “The appalling spectacle of Truss rewarding her cronies for helping her crash the economy and cause mortgage misery for millions demeans politics.
“Keir Starmer has made clear he would not have a resignation honours list. A Labour government will clean up politics, including banning second jobs for MPs and rooting out cronyism.”
Powell also said that Labour would look at ways to rescind peerages in certain cases such as that of Michelle Mone, who recently acknowledged for the first time that she lied when she denied repeatedly having been involved with a company that made millions of pounds in profits from UK government PPE deals during the pandemic.
Truss’s resignation honours list was announced on Saturday at the same time as the New year honours list. Downing Street sources denied this was an attempt to limit coverage of Truss’s list, which has been the subject of controversy for months. Labour has called on Rishi Sunak to block the appointments.
Despite the disastrous effects on the economy of her premiership, she was able to nominate a total of 11 people for honours. These included the Conservative donor Jon Moynihan and the former Vote Leave chief Matthew Elliott for seats in the Lords. Ruth Porter, a former senior Truss aide, was also made a peer.
Other names on what Truss’s aides described as a “modest” honours list included Tory MP Alec Shelbrooke, a former defence procurement minister who backed her Tory leadership campaign. The Elmet and Rothwell MP is receiving a knighthood while Thurrock Tory MP Jackie Doyle-Price, a friend of Truss who was business minister in her short administration, was given a damehood.
Willie Sullivan, senior director for campaigns at the Electoral Reform Society, said: “It will feel like an insult to many to see Liz Truss handing out peerages to friends and supporters after her disastrously short stint as prime minister. It looks like the political class dishing out rewards for failure at a time when many people are still suffering the effects from her turbulent premiership.”
Novelist Shirley Conran – the only non-political figure on the list – was also given a damehood for her services to maths education as founder of the charity Maths Anxiety Trust.
Truss described the honours as well deserved: “I am delighted that these champions for the conservative causes of freedom, limited government and a proud and sovereign Britain have been suitably honoured,” she said.
She was forced to stand down as prime minister in October 2022 after her mini-budget created market turmoil and then had to be reversed within weeks.
Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister, Jonathan Ashworth, said: “Honours should be for those committed to public service, not rewards for Tory failure.” Deputy Lib Dem leader Daisy Cooper said: “Truss handing out gongs after blowing a hole in the public finances and leaving families reeling from spiralling mortgage costs calls this whole honours system into disrepute.”
Downing Street insisted that Truss’s list of nominations had gone through all the usual checks and was released at the same time as the New Year honours because it had only just been finalised.
A Downing Street source said: “Every past Labour prime minister has issued a Dissolution or Resignation List – this is a longstanding and ongoing convention which even pre-dates the creation of the Labour party. The convention is that the incumbent prime minister does not block the political peerage proposals of others,” which the source said included “dubious” past selections by Labour.
Hannah White, the director of the Institute for Government thinktank, said resignation honours brought the wider honours system into disrepute and should be done away with.
The handing out of peerages was a particular problem, she said, with a person being given a job for life legislating on behalf of the country “on the say-so of a single individual”.
Tory MP Tobias Ellwood also criticised the system which had allowed Truss to make the appointments and called for new cross-party guidelines to prevent any repeat of the fiasco.
“Political patronage including promotion tends to reward loyalty, even psycophants if you like, over scrutiny and political curiosity,” he said. “This diminishes the quality of the MP who is promoted into government, and that cannot be good for British politics.”