Boris Johnson has been accused of making a ‘mockery’ of democracy over reports he plans to award a life peerage to election looser and close friend Zac Goldsmith.
The Prime Minister is understood to be making the ousted Tory minister a Lord as part of a plot to consolidate his power in the unelected chamber, according to the Daily Telegraph.
The reports come hours after Nicky Morgan was given a peerage to continue as Culture Secretary – despite quitting as an MP.
She will serve as an unelected Secretary of State in the Prime Minister’s top team barely a year after claiming ‘I would not serve in a Boris Johnson cabinet’ in September 2018.
A former critic of the Prime Minister, she spent much of the general election campaign defending his misleading claims that the government would create 50,000 new nurses.
Despite critics branding her peerage as ‘two fingers up to democracy’, fresh reports suggest Boris Johnson will also allow environment minister Goldsmith to retain his government position by making him a Lord.
Goldsmith, son of billionaire businessman and financier Sir James Goldsmith, was booted out of his Richmond Park seat by Lib Dem MP Sarah Olney on Thursday.
Boris Johnson’s girlfriend Carrie Symonds worked as his adviser in the general election campaign and said she was ‘gutted’ at his defeat.
His political career also includes a failed bid to become London Mayor in 2016, when Sadiq Khan was elected.
The bid was backed by Johnson, who at the time described him as a ‘good friend’.
Ms Olney, who secured Goldsmith’s former Richmond seat with a majority of over 7,000 votes told the Daily Mirror: ‘If these reports are true, then along with the appointment of Nicky Morgan, we are seeing Boris Johnson making a mockery of his so called ‘People’s government’.
‘It is day one of Parliament returning and already Boris Johnson is rewarding his cronies with peerages and threatening to make a no deal, which will damage our communities and public services, far more likely.’
Prime Ministers are allowed to make unelected Lords government ministers, but it has not happened for a decade and is considered unusual.
As Peers can’t sit in the House of Commons, Lords who hold ministerial positions can’t be questioned by MPs during PMQs.
Meanwhile Lords can vote on legislation as all bills must go through both Houses of Parliaments before they become law.
The Electoral Reform Society have campaigned to overhaul the House of Lords, branding it a ‘private members’ club’.
Hitting out at the Prime Minister today they tweeted: ‘Appointing people to the Lords for life after they ‘stand down’ or lose their seat makes a mockery of democracy. The second chamber is long overdue an overhaul’.
Governments and peers have taken the second chamber for a ride for too long. It's simple: if you vote on our laws, you should be chosen by the people affected by those laws. Let's scrap and replace the unelected Lords with a fairly-elected revising chamber that's fit for purpose
— Electoral Reform Society (@electoralreform) December 17, 2019
Chief executive of the organisation Darren Hughes added: ‘This issue we’ve seen across parties for years, and makes an absolute joke of democratic accountability. Our second chamber should not be some absurd insurance policy for trounced MPs.’
Other allies of Boris Johnson understood to be in line for a peerage include Shanker Singham, a director at the right-wing IEA think tank who has been dubbed the ‘Brexiteers’ brain, Brexit-backer Martin Howe QC, who helped the Tories’ previous bid to replace the Human Rights Act with a Bill of Rights, and Tory donor and businessman Johnny Leavesley.
Despite their obvious links to the Tory government, a Cabinet minister claimed giving them peerages would avoid ‘crony appointments’.
A Tory source told the Telegraph: ‘They are looking to promote people of real talent’.
It has also been reported today that Boris Johnson’s government plans to reform the House of Lords.
The Financial Times reports the PM is eyeing radical plans to reform the second chamber as part of a constitutional overhaul aimed at strengthening the UK and countering the rise of Scottish nationalism.