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Boris Johnson’s resignation honours list promises to be a nepotistic gong show

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

Gongs for dad Stanley and sister Rachel are whispered to be the latest twist in the saga of Boris Johnson’s delayed gargantuan resignation honours list. As officials with red pens challenge the most egregious abuses, the Cabinet Office is awash with tales of fresh famocracy and chumocracy favours from the deposed prime minister who put brother Jo and pal Evgeny Lebedev in the Lords. The 100-name list must be formally agreed by Downing Street. Rishi Sunak is a new sheriff in town who, I’m informed, recognises that withholding approval gives him leverage. Gongs for Johnson’s Windsor-framework surrender?

The Johnson logjam is holding up an appropriately briefer list from Liz Truss. Word is, the names are headed by a peerage for a crony tycoon who’s selflessly ready to bankroll her discredited case for tax cuts for rich people like himself. Truss, like Johnson, wasn’t in the Commons chamber for Sunak’s Northern Ireland statement. As he spoke she was spotted scurrying in evening-wear along the cloisters under Big Ben. Important other business, I’m sure.

[See also: Why the Tory right wants hush from Truss on tax-cuts]

Farmers laughing uproariously at a video message from Sunak were largely overlooked when rotten tomatoes were thrown at the Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey, and her deputy, Mark Spencer, at the NFU conference in Birmingham. My shell-shocked snout had his head in his hands as he recalled that Keir Starmer went down better than a party that regards rural areas as its natural constituency. Old political allegiances are being ploughed up.

No-nonsense Betty Boothroyd could be as brusque with constituents as she was with MPs. Never owning a home in her West Bromwich constituency, Boothroyd, who, sadly, has died, stayed in a hotel during weekend state visits. Warley warrior John Spellar recalled how at advice surgeries she’d plop an egg timer on the desk and despatch members of the public when the sand ran out. Busy Boothroyd never had a second to spare.

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Most conversations with Tory MPs lead back to dire poll ratings and Johnson’s intentions. One with a home counties seat argued that Blue Wall middle-class Conservatives despise the former PM, but Red Wall working-class converts still like him. It’s a two-nation party split down the middle.

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MPs who have had the whip suspended by Labour are required, I’m told, to continue paying Parliamentary Labour Party fees and vote with Labour while their fate is decided. The dangling tendency is a party within the party.

[See also: Honours are becoming as discredited as Twitter blue ticks]

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This article appears in the 01 Mar 2023 issue of the New Statesman, The Mission