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Knighthood for Tory donor sparks call for reform of honours system

Knighthood for Tory donor
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The Government has been warned that the current standard for political honors is too low and might undermine the system if reform is not implemented. After revealing an unexpected honors list that featured Tory MPs and a billionaire who donated £5 million to the party, No. 10 has come under fire.

There have been accusations that the system is being “undermined” by the frequency with which political donors are given gongs, following the inclusion of Sir Mohamed Mansour, a Tory treasurer who was knighted.

None of the ten sources mentioned Sir Mohamed’s political, public, and charitable service.

But former former Electoral Commissioner and ex-Lib Dem MP David Howarth argued the system of prime ministers dishing out peerages and knighthoods should be overhauled.

Prof Howarth, a professor of politics, is also member of the UK Governance Project – along with former Attorney General Dominic Grieve and Labour veteran, Margaret Hodge – which has called for reform of how the honours system works.

He said if people perceive awards are in exchange for money it “completely undermines the idea of the honours – one of which is that it is a nice way of recognising people’s achievements and service to the community which doesn’t cost anything”.

The issue of political peerages – those appointed to the House of Lords – was “an enormous problem” because the Lords have a role in crafting laws, he argued – stressing the need for an independent system.

And with the lesser honours – such as knighthoods and damehoods – he said: “It undermines the purpose of the honour system if you can get one without actually having achieved anything apart from given the political parties money.”
One of the recommendations set out by the UK Governance Project was to take the decision out of the hands of the prime minister to remove the temptation to reward party donors with gongs.

Prof. Howarth told i: “The Prime Minister should have no part of the system and political honours shouldn’t be treated any differently to others, and should be put in with public service honours.

“The PM shouldn’t have any say in who gets these and the level of achievement should be equivalent to other fields. It should not be just doing your job.

“There are these backbench MPs who are getting knighthoods for just being a backbench MP whereas in sport you have got to get an Olympic medal, or an Oscar in the film industry or the Nobel Prize.”

He added: “Of course, people involved in politics and public life should be eligible for honours but only on the same basis and exceptional service or achievement that applies to everybody else.”

Polling expert and Conservative peer Lord Hayward has said that he believes the honours system needs reform.

He acknowledged that Sir Mohamed has been involved with various charities as well as giving money to the Conservatives, but told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One: “There are honours given to literally thousands of very well deserving people, and it’s a shame that they should be linked with other people for whom there is a question.

“There should not only be reform of the honours system as such where you get knighthoods, but also peerages as well.”

He said that Conservative peer Lord Norton had put forward a bill last year aiming to ensure that only people “who had conspicuous merit” could “qualify for a peerage”.

“I think a similar system with somebody on a non-political side signing off where there is possibly a conflict of interest should also be adopted in relation to other honours.

“The vast majority of people who get knighthoods which are identified as ‘cash for honours’ have actually given probably far more money for all sorts of major charities […] They just don’t make a big song and dance about it.

“But I think in the interest of not having aspersions cast against people, there should be a much more transparent system of identification.”

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Dulal Ahmed Chowdhury

Dulal Ahmed Chowdhury is the Editor of The Daily Dazzling Dawn. Previously, he has been serving in important positions in all the famous national dailies of the Bangladesh since the nineties. He has played a commendable role in journalism by participating in various events at the national and international levels. United Nations Conference, World Climate Conference, SAARC Summit are notable among them.

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