Shameful list will tarnish Cameron's legacy: ISABEL OAKESHOTT on how the honours system has been 'discredited more than ever before'
When Tony Blair peddled peerages to save the Labour Party from bankruptcy, it seemed the honours system could sink no lower.
But with this list of gongs for failed propagandists, Chipping Norton cronies and mediocre party apparatchiks, David Cameron has just proved it can be brought into further disrepute.
Never has the system seemed more discredited than it does today, as the former prime minister — if the leaked list is correct, and yesterday no one denied it — attempts to shower his friends and supporters with fancy titles as his final act of patronage.
From his wife’s stylist to the individuals responsible for the deplorable campaign to bully voters into remaining in the EU, an array of flops, lickspittles, time-servers and non-entities will soon be the proud beneficiaries of gongs.
David Cameron's resignation honours list has 'discredited the honours system more than ever before'
With a few honourable exceptions, qualifying for their titles seems to have required little more than doing their jobs.
Perhaps we should never have expected anything else. After all, this is the prime minister who in 2014 rewarded his hairdresser, Lino Carbosiero, with an MBE.
This time, it’s Isabel ‘Bells’ Spearman, Samantha Cameron’s Girl Friday — who organised Mrs Cameron’s social engagements and clothes — who has been put forward for a gong.
The resignation honours list reported yesterday also includes Thea Rogers, former special adviser to George Osborne.?
Her contribution to the UK economy is unknown, but she is credited with changing his hairstyle and putting him on the ‘5:2’ diet.
The fact is that Cameron has never made much pretence of upholding the integrity of the honours system.
As Leader of the Opposition at the height of Blair’s ‘cash for honours’ scandal in 2006, he was careful not to make any hostages to fortune about how he would distribute gongs, saying only that it was time to ‘stop the perception’ that peerages could somehow be bought by big donations from the rich.
Privately, he later indicated that he was relaxed about rewarding big party donors. His dissolution list shows that he meant what he said.
Among those in line for awards are Ian Taylor, a businessman who poured hundreds of thousands into the Remain campaign, and has handed the Tories a reported ￡1.6 million over the years.?
Then there’s Andrew Cook, another high-rolling Tory donor, who donated up to ￡300,000 to Cameron’s battle to keep Britain in the EU.
Cameron’s final flourish is entirely consistent with the way he conducted his premiership.
From the moment he entered Downing Street, he relished exercising his powers of patronage to benefit his friends.?
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Witness the rewards for his old university mate Andrew Feldman, a man who has never stood for elected office.
On taking power in 2010, Cameron made him co-chairman of the Tory party and a life peer.
He then repeatedly protected his old friend when he ran into trouble, firstly when he was accused of castigating Eurosceptic Tory party members as ‘swivel-eyed loons’, and more recently over the scandal involving the suicide of a young party activist who is alleged to have been badly bullied by a party official known as the Tatler Tory.
The list once again illustrates that for the chosen few, screwing up is no bar to preferment.
His decision to reward three of the architects of so-called Project Fear — Will Straw, ex-Cameron adviser Dan Korski, and former chancellor George Osborne, who brazenly spread alarmist misinformation in the run-up to the referendum — is particularly egregious.
When it comes to Straw, voters have twice delivered a damning verdict on his contribution to public life.
Firstly in 2015, when, as a Labour Party candidate, he spectacularly failed to win a parliamentary seat in the constituency of Rossendale and Darwen; and secondly, this summer, when as director of Britain Stronger in Europe, he spectacularly failed to win the argument in the referendum campaign.
Yet Cameron wants to make him a Commander of the Order of the British Empire — an accolade usually reserved for highly distinguished and long-term national service.
Here the former prime minister has clearly been willing to overlook the convention that resignation honours are issued only to members of the outgoing premier’s political party.
Why, then, is Nigel Farage — the man who has done more than any other individual to get Britain out of the EU and who was on the winning side of the argument in the referendum — not on the list?
Meanwhile, Mr Korski, a former deputy director of the Downing Street Policy Unit who was seconded to the Remain campaign, has been put forward for a CBE.
This is despite his disgraceful role in the ousting of British Chambers of Commerce director-general John Longworth for supporting Brexit.?
Cameron’s resignation honours also include a dozen or so spin doctors and special advisers.?
In recommending gongs for these characters, the former prime minister is simply showing whom he valued most.
Certainly, it is not the army of quiet volunteers who devoted years of unpaid service to his regime, organising cheese-and-wine evenings and cake stalls to raise a few pounds for the coffers, keep local party branches alive and help parliamentary candidates win marginal seats.
Cameron has instead rewarded a string of Downing Street insiders who have rarely had to leave the comfort of their desks.
It is believed that the former Prime Minister has requested knighthoods for businessmen Ian Taylor, left, ?and Andrew Cook, right, who have donated more than ￡1million to the Tories
These elevated press officers may have done a decent enough job, but their public service could hardly be considered exceptional.
Some names on Cameron’s wish list are said to have raised eyebrows on the nomination committee, which may have something to do with the entire list being leaked to the Sunday Times yesterday.
Cameron must know this list will do nothing for his legacy. Then again, perhaps he no longer cares.
He and his inner circle blithely assumed they would be in power for another four years.?
Now he has been unceremoniously ousted from office, perhaps he sees these gongs as a small consolation prize for those he has brought down with him.
As one Whitehall observer put it wryly: the only surprise is that there is nothing for Larry, the Downing Street cat.
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