Rishi Sunak hands peerage to Theresa May in eleventh-hour honours list

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Rishi Sunak has awarded a peerage to former prime minister Theresa May, chief of staff Liam Booth-Smith and five former Tory MPs, in a dissolution honours list published late on polling day and just before an exit poll predicted a big win for Labour.

The outgoing prime minister ennobled his predecessor May, the ex-1922 committee chair Sir Graham Brady, former cabinet ministers Chris Grayling and Sir Alok Sharma, and former deputy Commons speaker Eleanor Laing.

Former Tory MP Craig Mackinlay, who lost his hands and feet to amputation after suffering from sepsis, has also been awarded a peerage.

The list was published online shortly before polling stations closed and the national exit poll was released at 10pm, which showed that Labour was on track for a massive majority while the Conservatives were facing their worst-ever defeat.

Sunak’s list included only one aide: Booth-Smith, touted by colleagues as one of the key figures who had urged the prime minister to call a snap election in July instead of waiting until the autumn.

The absence of awards for other aides sparked fury. On Thursday night one special adviser said they were “so cross”, while another Downing Street aide was said by friends to be “incandescent” not to be recognised in the dissolution list, which also included five lesser gongs for Conservative politicians.

Tory officials said the idea of a separate resignation honours list had been floated, however, in which more advisers could be recognised.

Britain’s Conservative MP Craig Mackinlay acknowledging applauds and cheering at the start of the weekly session of Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons in central London, on May 22, 2024 on the day of his return
Tory MP Craig Mackinlay was greeted by cheers when he returned to parliament in May 2024 after battling sepsis. He subsequently announced he would not contest his seat in the snap election © House of Commons/UK Parliament

Opposition parties were also allowed to submit nominations for the list to mark the dissolution of parliament.

Sir Keir Starmer chose three pioneering Labour women for a peerage — the first female foreign secretary Dame Margaret Beckett, the first minister for women Harriet Harman and the first female chair of the public accounts committee Dame Margaret Hodge.

Former parliamentary Labour chair Jon Cryer, former deputy Commons speaker Rosie Winterton, and former frontbenchers Kevan Jones, John Spellar and Barbara Keeley were other ex-Labour MPs elevated to the upper chamber on a dissolution list published on polling day.

Labour awarded eight peerages, while the Conservatives awarded seven peerages and the Lib Dems and Ulster Unionists had one nomination each.

Two new crossbench peers were announced in the list: Minette Batters, former president of the National Farmers’ Union of England and Wales, and Dr Hilary Cass, the former president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health who recently completed an independent review of gender identity services for children and young people.

Five other gongs were also awarded to Conservative politicians in the list. Former deputy prime minister Therese Coffey was awarded a damehood, while deputy prime minister Oliver Dowden, former chief whip Julian Smith and former defence secretary Ben Wallace were awarded Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath.

Scottish secretary Alister Jack — who last week admitted placing three bets between March and April on the date of the election, but stressed he was not among those being investigated by the gambling regulator — was given a knighthood.

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