‘The key word is elected’: Tory MP mocked for bizarre defence of Boris Johnson’s honours list

Video grab of the the introduction of, Charlotte Owen, 30, a former Boris Johnson adviser who will sit as a Conservative peer and be known as Baroness Owen of Alderley Edge, at the House of Lords, London. Picture date: Monday July 24, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story LORDS Peerages. Photo credit should read: House of Lords/PA Wire 

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Charlotte Owen, 30, became the youngest ever life peer in the House of Lords on Monday. (PA)

A Conservative Party MP has been mocked for comparing the youngest peer in the House of Lords to the 25-year-old Labour winner of a recent by-election.

Marco Longhi, the Tory MP for Dudley North, defended the controversial appointment of Charlotte Owen to the Lords, only to be met with a backlash on social media.

At the age of 30, Owen officially became the youngest ever life peer on Monday when she took her seat in the unelected chamber. She will be known as Baroness Owen of Alderley Edge and will sit as a Conservative peer.

She was nominated to the house by former prime minister Boris Johnson in his resignation honours - Owen worked for Johnson as an advisor.

Read more: Charlotte Owen, former adviser to Boris Johnson, made youngest peer at 30

SELBY, ENGLAND - JULY 21: Labour's Keir Mather MP meets with supporters after winning the Selby and Ainsty by election on July 21, 2023 in Selby, England. Last night Keir Mather became the youngest serving MP in Parliament when he overturned the Conservative majority in the Selby and Ainsty by-election. He won by 4,161 votes, a 23.7 percentage point swing from the Conservatives. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)
Labour's Keir Mather, 25, became the youngest MP in the House of Commons last week. (Getty Images)

She took her seat in the Lords just days after another new Tory peer in his 30s, Ross Kemspell, 31, also nominated by Johnson, becoming Baron Kempsell of Letchworth.

Kempsell, Johnson's former spokesman, took his seat last Thursday, the same day as the Selby and Ainsty by-election won by Labour's Keir Mather, 25, who became the youngest serving MP, or the so-called "Baby of the House".

The appointments have sparked criticism, particularly around Owen, who has enjoyed a meteoric rise from parliamentary intern to baroness in just six years.

Insiders have said that Owen was not bad at her job, but pointed out she was "incredibly junior", and that the appointment was "impossible to defend".

Nazir Afzal, a former prosecutor with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), was one of those to tweet criticism on Tuesday, saying: "Baroness Owen and Lord Kempsell who have less than a decade work experience between them but who now have jobs for life making laws because Boris Johnson said so, have made the case for abolition of the House of Lords clearer than I could."

Marco Longhi MP (Con: Dudley North) in Parliament Square, Westminster, Nov 2020.
Conservative MP Marco Longhi, pictured, defended the appointment of life peer Charlotte Owen. (PA)

Longhi replied by referring to Mather's by-election win, tweeting: "Your party just elected a 25-year-old in Selby. Even younger than Owen and Kempsell. Anything to say about that? Is he not a law-maker too?"

Afzal tweeted back: "My party? As you well know one was elected and can be ejected at any election, these two were appointed and are there for life."

Longhi was met with a barrage of criticism on Twitter for his comment.

One user wrote: "One was elected. Two weren't. But sure, you do you."

Another said: "The key word is 'elected'."

Another tweeted: "Do you remember how members of the public elected you? There was a big room, with lots of piles of voting slips being counted.

"You made a little speech thanking people for their votes. That's the difference."

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 07: Onlookers, including Charlotte Owen, an aide to Boris Johnson, watch as Prime Minister Boris Johnson addresses the nation to announce his resignation outside 10 Downing Street, on July 7, 2022 in London, England. After a turbulent term in office, Boris Johnson will resign from his roles as Conservative Party Leader and Prime Minister today after coming under pressure from his party. Eton and Oxford-educated Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, was elected as Prime Minister in the 2019 General Election.  (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Charlotte Owen pictured at Boris Johnson's resignation as prime minister outside 10 Downing Street in July 2022. (Getty Images)

One Twitter user said: "The Labour Party didn't elect anyone. The people of Selby and Ainsty made their choice in a free ballot. If they change their minds they get the chance to remove Mr Mather.

"This pair, on the other hand, have been handed jobs for life at the whim of one man."

A cross-party Lords report published last week said Johnson’s exit honours had “brought into question” the current appointments system for creating new peers.

Lady Owen worked as a parliamentary assistant to Conservative MPs Alok Sharma, Johnson and Sir Jake Berry from 2017 until 2021.

She then worked as an adviser to Johnson as prime minister, his successor Liz Truss and then chief whip Chris Heaton-Harris between 2021 and 2022.

Watch: Boris Johnson's former adviser becomes youngest peer