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Tory MPs Richard Shepherd and Angela Watkinson join Margaret Beckett and Cherie Blair in receiving New Year honours

11am: Also delighted to report that Charles Barwell, President of the National Conservative Convention, has received an OBE. He writes about it on his blog.


By Tim Montgomerie
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WatkinsonShepherdThe rest of Britain is focused on the welter of honours for Britain's Olympians but ConHome's focus is on the politicians who've been recognised. We therefore congratulate two Tory MPs - Eurosceptic backbencher and civil liberties campaigner Sir Richard Shepherd and former Whip and headteacher Dame Angela Watkinson.

Other big political names to be honoured include former Labour Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett. She becomes a Dame. Cherie Blair is awarded a CBE for her charitable work and her campaigning for women's equality.

The BBC reports other political honours:

"Among other elected politicians to be recognised is former Eastenders actor Michael Cashman, Labour member of the European Parliament for the West Midlands and founder of gay rights group Stonewall, who becomes a CBE. A CBE also goes to Roger Williams, Lib Dem MP for Brecon and Radnorshire. Among those made OBEs are Annette Brooke, Lib Dem MP for Mid Dorset and Poole, and Christopher Fraser, who stood down as a Tory MP at the last election. George Kynoch, ex-deputy chair of the Scottish Conservatives and Andrew Wiseman, chair of the Lib Dems Federal Finance Committee, are also similarly honoured while Conservative MEP and businessman Malcolm Harbour becomes a CBE for his services to the UK economy. Caroline Pidgeon, Lib Dem member of the London Assembly, becomes an MBE."

In Wednesday's Telegraph Peter Oborne complained that David Cameron had presided over a new politicisation of the honours system. He noted that a new Parliamentary and Political Service Honours Committee was created without consulting parliament. "The chief whips of the three main political parties also sit on this committee," he wrote, "thus proving that the process is debased." Their job, after all, is to reward and encourage loyalty to the PM, not great parliamentary campaigning or independence of mind.

Oborne continues:

"In the wake of the Cabinet reshuffle last autumn, Downing Street suddenly announced that several ex-ministers had been rewarded with knighthoods (including the sacked farming minister, James Paice, the former solicitor general, Edward Garnier, and two former defence ministers, Nick Harvey and Gerald Howarth). It may be that each one of these newly appointed knights performed exemplary service during the two years they held junior office. But the suspicion must remain that these politicians are not being honoured for exemplary service but rather rewarded for failure, and, perhaps even more pertinently, to encourage them not to cause problems for the Government from the back benches. Such suspicions may well be wholly unfair, but they are inevitable because Downing Street has recently failed to follow due process, or anything resembling it."

Bernard Jenkin MP said the same at the time. The Chairman of the Public Administration Committee commented that the awards constituted "politicisation of the honours system" and flew in the face of the stated position of the government.

There's a lot of truth in what Mr Oborne writes and what Mr Jenkin said but in recognising Richard Shepherd I don't thing anyone would be able to call this Maastricht rebel Sir Stooge. He is the model of a free-thinking parliamentarian. Lady Thatcher and Sir John Major both bear the scars to prove it.


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