31 Dec 2015

David Cameron criticised over knighthood for election guru

The Prime Minister is accused of cronyism for awarding his election strategist Lynton Crosby a knighthood and including a number of Conservative party workers in the New Year Honours List.

The citation for Mr Crosby, who is described as ‘lately Campaign Director, Conservative Party’, states that it is being made “for political service”.

Once described as a “master of the dark political arts”, the Australian lobbyist attracted controversy during his time as chief strategist for the Conservatives when he was accused of acting to lobby against the introduction of plain cigarette packaging in the UK for one of his company’s other clients – tobacco firm Philip Morris International.

Shadow home secretary Andy Burnham condemned Mr Crosby’s knighthood: “This outrageous award is the clearest evidence yet that the Tories think they can get away with whatever they like”.

Some senior Conservative MPs expressed reservations, with Mark Garnier – a member of the Treasury Select Committee – saying he was “sympathetic with those people who think it is a bad idea” given the awards are meant to be for public service.

Sir Alistair Graham, a former chairman of the committee on standards in public life, told the Times newspaper: “I am totally against using honours for political activity it just demeans the system.”

However, political commentators pointed out that Spencer Livermore, the longtime Labour Party election adviser, was made a life peer in October 2015.

The New Year list also includes a knighthood for Henry Bellingham MP, who was a Foreign Office Minister from 2010-12, and a series of Conservative party officials and volunteers.

There was also a knighthood for former Lib Dem energy secretary Ed Davey and a damehood for the Labour chief whip Rosie Winterton.