UK prime minister accused of giving away knighthood to win MP’s Brexit support
- Theresa May’s choice of indecisive former junior minister described as ‘spectacular act of desperation’ by shadow cabinet secretary
Theresa May has been accused of bringing the honours system into disrepute after handing a knighthood to a former minister known to be wavering on whether or not to support her Brexit deal.
Downing Street announced the award had been granted to John Hayes, a junior minister to May when she was the home secretary, on Friday afternoon.
“People will rightly look at this knighthood and wonder how it relates to the looming Brexit vote in the Commons,” said a spokesman for Scottish National party leader Nicola Sturgeon. “That brings the honours system into disrepute. But, more fundamentally, it exposes how broken the whole Westminster system is.”
Shadow cabinet secretary Chris Matheson also criticised the move, saying it would be a “spectacular act of desperation for Theresa May to be giving away knighthoods in a bid to win votes for her botched Brexit deal”.
Chris Green, a Conservative MP who followed former Brexit and foreign secretaries David Davis and Boris Johnson in resigning from his Department for Transport job over May’s Chequers plan in July, told the Financial Times: “They will use whatever patronage is available to them. They are feeling the heat.”
Will Dry, co-founder of the Our Future, Our Choice anti-Brexit campaign group that focuses on young people, highlighted the strength of Tory opposition to the prime minister’s Brexit deal: “If this is May’s plan to win them round, will a knighthood mean anything by the time this Brexit mess is all over?”
Hayes, MP for the Lincolnshire constituency South Holland and the Deepings, has been vocal about his discomfort with the deal. A week ago, he told his local paper, the Spalding Guardian: “Whilst I can live with much of this agreement, I have been clear that we must look again at the transition arrangements and how they end.”
He said he hoped May would listen to Tory opposition and come up with a deal he found more acceptable.
May also criticised former prime minister David Cameron for handing out numerous honours before he left office in 2016. She has been quoted as saying she “retched” when she saw the list.
Responding to the allegations against May on Friday, a Downing Street spokesman said Hayes had said he remained undecided on the deal. Hayes was quoted by The Sun as saying: “I still need a lot of persuading to vote for this.”