Boris Johnson seeking knighthood for father ‘absolutely outrageous’, says Starmer

Boris Johnson has been accused of discrediting the honours system with an “absolutely outrageous” move to put forward his father Stanley for a knighthood.

Labour leader Keir Starmer said that move – one of up 100 names reportedly nominated for honours by the former Tory prime minister – was “ridiculous”.

“The idea that Boris Johnson is nominating his dad for a knighthood – you only need to say it to realise just how ridiculous it is,” Sir Keir told a LBC radio phone-in.

“It’s classic of a man like Johnson. I mean, I think the public will just think this is absolutely outrageous,” adding: “The idea of an ex-prime minister bestowing honours on his dad – for services to what?”

The Times newspaper first reported that the former prime minister, who was kicked out of No 10 by the Tory party last September, has nominated Stanley Johnson for a knighthood.

A spokesperson for the Mr Johnson said: “We don’t comment on honours.”

Labour’s shadow health secretary Wes Streeting claimed Mr Johnson had “discredited the honours system, discredited the office of prime minister”.

Mr Streeting: “Given Boris Johnson’s conduct, you might argue that Stanley Johnson has got a lot to answer for, actually.”

Lib Dem chief whip Wendy Chamberlain said “nepotism” from the former PM wasn’t new and called on Mr Sunak to block the nomination. “If future honours lists are to have any shred of credibility, Sunak must step in and veto this list.”

She added: “Honours should be reserved for those who’ve gone above and beyond to contribute to our country. Boris Johnson’s attempt to bestow that recognition on his father makes a mockery of the whole thing.”

SNP MP Tommy Sheppard accused Mr Johnson of “arrogance” and also said he was “making a mockery of the honours system – just like he a made a mockery of British politics”.

In 2021, senior Tory MP Caroline Nokes and a journalist publicly accused Stanley Johnson – a former MEP who campaigns on the environment – of touching them at Tory party conferences.

Ms Nokes accused Johnson Snr. of forcefully smacking her on the backside and making a vulgar comment at the conference in 2003. He said he had “no recollection” of either incident.

The 82-year-old, who campaigned for the UK to remain in the EU at the Brexit vote, became a French citizen after applying in 2021. Mr Johnson told The Independent at the time that it was a “very nice gesture” of the French authorities.

Any honour for Mr Johnson’s father would raise fresh questions for the former Tory leader, who has already faced accusations of cronyism after nominating his brother Jo Johnson for a peerage in 2020.

His resignations honours list has proved highly controversial. He is thought to have chosen more than a dozen of his closest allies for peerages – including Nadine Dorries and Scottish secretary Alister Jack.

Boris Johnson sits next to his father Stanley (left) on the Bakerloo Line (PA Archive)
Boris Johnson sits next to his father Stanley (left) on the Bakerloo Line (PA Archive)

Previous reports have indicated he is also putting forward former assistant Charlotte Owens, in her late 20s, and 30-year-old aide Ross Kempsell, who previously worked for TalkTV.

Mr Johnson’s list is currently being vetted by the Cabinet Office. Top officials in Rishi Sunak’s office are said to have concerns about the size of the list and some of those put forward by the former PM.

Mr Sunak’s official spokesperson said on Monday that reports about a knighthood for Mr Johnson’s father were “speculative”, adding: “The detail [of resignation honours] is still being worked through.”

The latest row comes as Tory MPs accused Mr Johnson of acting like Donald Trump in his efforts to undermine the Partygate inquiry into whether he lied to parliament.

The former PM is under growing pressure after the privileges committee released a report saying it would have been “obvious” to Mr Johnson that No 10 gatherings breached Covid restrictions.

Mr Johnson claimed it was “surreal” that the committee of MPs relied on evidence from Sue Gray – the top civil servant set to be appointed Sir Keir’s chief of staff. But the committee said it had gathered evidence independently of Ms Gray.

Tobias Ellwood, Tory chair of the defence select committee, warned the Johnson row was “a Trumpian drag anchor”, while senior Tory MP told The Observer  the claims made by Mr Johnson and allies mean “they have gone full Trump”.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer under pressure over Sue Gray appointment (PA Wire)
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer under pressure over Sue Gray appointment (PA Wire)

Sir Keir has declined to say when he first approached Ms Gray amid a Tory outcry at the appointment – but he insisted he had “absolutely no contact” with Ms Gray as she carried out her Partygate probe early last year.

“I’ve been looking for a chief of staff for a little while now, but Sue will lay that out, but there’s nothing improper at all,” the Labour leader said during a phone-in on LBC Radio.

Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Ashworth told Times Radio that he understood discussions between Ms Gray and Sir Keir have been ongoing for “several weeks”.

Ms Gray is expected to submit a formal request on Monday to take on the role when she puts in her application to parliament’s anti-corruption watchdog, the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba).

Tory science minister Michelle Donelan denied there was reason to believe Ms Gray was not impartial when she carried out her inquiry and reported in May 2022.

“She was a leading civil servant who obviously swore and accepted the civil service code in which one of those key requirements is impartiality,” she told Sky News on Monday. “I think she was impartial, I have no reason to believe she wasn’t.”