David Cameron’s resignation honours list has been held up after concerns were apparently raised about the suitability of some of the close allies he has nominated for recognition.
Outgoing prime ministers can reward individuals who have played a key role in their premiership with peerages and other honours.
But the appointment of new peers must be approved by a committee of the House of Lords and a Whitehall source said “questions have been raised” about some of the candidates Cameron recommended as one of his final acts before handing over the reins of government to Theresa May last week.
The list was expected to be announced immediately after Cameron resigned, but could now be delayed for several weeks.
His chief of staff, Ed Llewellyn, director of external relations, Gabby Bertin, and top spin doctor, Craig Oliver, are all thought to be in line for recognition of some kind for their loyal service, but the Lords committee, which met this week, is said to have expressed doubts about some of Cameron’s recommendations for peerages.
He had already been criticised for insisting that the close advisers who were abruptly swept out of Downing Street alongside him be awarded payoffs worth six months’ salary – more than the contracted amount they were entitled to.
Cameron took the decision in the face of Whitehall opposition, with John Manzoni, the head of the civil service, advising him: “I do not believe that there is a case for awarding higher sums than those for which the contract allows.” The total severance bill for Cameron’s special advisers was £1m.
Many Conservative MPs were shocked by the zeal with which May swept away many of Cameron’s closest political friends, including George Osborne, in last week’s radical reshuffle, which also saw Michael Gove and many of his backers, including MPs Dominic Raab and Ed Vaizey, shown the door.
May has also made a point of drawing attention to the humble origins of her new cabinet, pointing out at her first prime minister’s questions on Wednesday that party chairman Patrick McLoughlin was once a miner, for example, in what many see as a deliberate contrast with the privileged background of many of Cameron’s team.
As well as doubts being raised about some of the peerages Cameron has recommended, Whitehall sources suggested the vetting process for the other, lesser, honours he wants to see awarded could take some time as his list was “very comprehensive”.
A final, approved list of resignation honours is expected to be announced in the coming weeks. A Cabinet Office spokesperson said of the delay: “This is speculation. Any list would need to go through the usual process and that inevitably takes time.”
Cameron, who has said he will continue to serve as an MP for his Witney constituency in Oxfordshire, has appeared on the backbenches in the House of Commons since stepping down after his final prime minister’s questions.
He announced his intention to resign on the morning of 24 June, after the public unexpectedly voted for Britain to leave the European Union, in the face of his personal entreaties to back remain. The leadership contest to succeed him was expected to take all summer, but the process accelerated when May’s only remaining rival, Andrea Leadsom, withdrew from the race after appearing to suggest that the fact she was a mother gave her more of a stake in Britain’s future than May. Leadsom has been appointed May’s environment, food and rural affairs minister.
May has brought her own longstanding advisers with her into Downing Street, including joint chiefs of staff Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy. Hill was forced to resign in 2014 after being accused of briefing against Gove, who May trounced in the leadership race, while Timothy has published a series of critical articles about aspects of the Cameron government’s policy at the New Schools Network thinktank, since leaving May’s side in the Home Office.
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