Boris Johnson awarded his political aides and allies with some of Britain’s highest honours to mark his resignation as prime minister, including some who attended parties in government buildings during COVID-19 lockdowns.
Johnson’s list, long delayed following his resignation last year, renewed criticism of the system under which outgoing prime ministers can nominate people for lifetime seats in Britain’s upper house of parliament, as well as knighthoods and other awards, when they leave office.
Martin Reynolds, a senior civil servant and Johnson’s former principal private secretary, was given an Order of the Bath award for public service.
In May 2020, when Britain had lockdown measures, Reynolds had invited people to the Downing Street garden suggesting they “bring your own booze”. He later boasted to colleagues on social media that staff appeared to have “got away” with the drinks event.
Johnson gave a peerage to his former chief of staff, Dan Rosenfield, and a Commander of the Order of the British Empire honour to Jack Doyle, his former director of communications, two of his key aides when parties were held in Downing Street during lockdowns.
Labour Party deputy leader Angela Rayner called Johnson’s honours list a “sickening insult”.
A Conservative member of parliament, who asked not to be named, said the list was “deeply embarrassing” and showed Johnson’s lack of remorse.
The former prime minister also approved honours for Conservative party politicians who have recently been caught in other scandals.
Johnson gave a peerage to Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen, who is facing an investigation over claims of mismanagement at the site of a redevelopment project, which he denies, and a knighthood to Conor Burns, who was fired from government last year over a misconduct claim, but later cleared by an internal party probe.
Jacob Rees-Mogg and Simon Clarke were among Conservative politicians awarded knighthoods, while former interior minister Priti Patel was made a dame.
Johnson nominated 45 people in total for awards, which is fewer than other recent prime ministers. Theresa May nominated 57 people when she stood down in 2019, and David Cameron put forward 59 people in 2016.
Johnson is fighting for his political future with a parliamentary inquiry investigating whether he misled the House of Commons when he said all COVID-19 rules were followed.
Parliament’s privileges committee could recommend Johnson be suspended from parliament for more than 10 days if they find he did mislead parliament recklessly or deliberately, potentially triggering an election for his seat.
Johnson denies wrongdoing.