Theresa May has appointed six former Tory MPs to the House of Lords despite saying in 2007 that “the political parties’ power of patronage must be removed”.
Downing Street nominated nine new Conservative peers yesterday, including six former Tory MPs and one former deputy chair of the Conservative Party. The announcement is widely believed to have been timed to ensure that it is lost amidst coverage of the royal wedding.
Critics have accused the government of handing peerages to Tory stalwarts like Sir Eric Pickles in an attempt to shore up her party’s fragile position in the House of Lords, which has now inflicted fifteen defeats on the government over Brexit.
The nakedly political appointments will now expose Theresa May to accusations of hypocrisy after she promised in the past to put an end to the culture of patronage on Lords appointments.
As long ago as 2007, Theresa May railed against Labour appointments to the House of Lords, declaring that “the political parties’ power of patronage, and with it the risk of abuse, must be removed”.
Ironically, May also suggested that the House of Lords “needs greater democratic legitimacy if it is successfully to challenge government policy”, but is now accused of using appointments to rig the House of Lords in her favour.
Shortly after becoming Prime Minister, Downing Street “insiders” briefed The Sun that there would be an end to the “gongs for mates” culture that had emerged under David Cameron, with promises of a “dramatic overhaul” of the Lords to solve the problem.
But May rowed back just months later in a Newsnight interview with Evan Davis, where she refused to rule out giving peerages to Conservative Party donors on three occasions.
At least one of Theresa May’s new peers has donated to her party, with former MP Sir Edward Garnier handing over £7,000 including a donation made just before last year’s general election.