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Chris Philp: Honours for sale

PhilpchrisChris is a social entrepreneur and was elected as a Conservative Councillor in Camden this May, beating the sitting Labour Leader and tripling the Conservative vote in an inner city ward. Chris was Chairman of the Bow Group in 2004 and advised Andrew Lansley during the 2005 general election campaign.

Everyone has seen the recent coverage linking Labour fundraising to honours. But is it really as brazen as the media have suggested? To find out the truth, I have analysed donations to the Labour Party since 2001 in excess of £50,000 and the honours that the donors have received. The report is published today by The Bow Group, and is being sent to Deputy Assistant Commissioner John Yates, investigating Labour’s cash for honours scandal.

The results are extraordinary:

  • A large donor to the Labour Party is 1,657 times more likely to receive an honour than a non-donor.
  • Large Labour donors are 9,955 times more likely to receive a Knighthood than anyone else and 1,549 times more likely to receive an OBE.

Looking at these figures, it is very hard to avoid the conclusion that Labour has been blatantly selling honours and selling places in the House of Lords. The graphic below summarises the figures.


I have also looked at the average amount given to Labour by large donors in relation to the honours that they received. This leads to an “Honours Price List”. On average, a large donor who receives a peerage has given £1.07 million (or £2.65 million if you include Lord Sainsbury, a Minister). Those receiving a Knighthood have given £747,000 on average and those receiving a CBE £675,000. An OBE comes in at £552,000. It is incredible that the amount given scales so blatantly with the prestige of the honour. This further suggests Labour has been selling honours and selling places in the House of Lords.

We compared the prices that Labour appears to be charging with those charged by Lloyd George (inflation adjusted since 1922). By comparison to Lloyd George, Labour are offering good value for Peerages (which are now about half the price), charging a little less for a Knighthood but charging much more for OBEs, which Lloyd George gave out with particular liberality. The graphic below gives Labour’s Honours Price list, and compares it to Lloyd George’s.


Tony Blair came to office claiming to be “Whiter than white” and promising to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. But over the last nine years a pattern of behaviour has emerged at the very top of the Government that is venal, sleazy and unethical. This pattern of behaviour goes right back to 1997 and the Ecclestone donation, after which the Government changed policy in a way Ecclestone found helpful. Blair’s more recent attempt to circumvent his own disclosure rules using loans is particularly dishonest – one day he argues that full disclosure of donations is important to maintain standards in public life, and then the next day he deliberately disguises the Labour Party’s sources of cash.

This whole episode is serious. It debases and devalues the honours system, most recipients of which are deserving.  It is an insult to their hard work that it appears honours can be bought. It undermines the integrity of public life. It corrupts the independence and stature of the House of Lords, a legislative assembly, when membership appears to be for sale. It suggests a level of dishonesty and venality amongst our leaders that calls into question their fitness to govern honestly. The practice is illegal, and has been since 1925.

Urgent reform is needed to restore integrity to the system. Conferring honours should be handled by an “Independent Commission for Honours”, which should not include any current or former politicians or anyone who has held office or donated more than £5,000 to any political party. They should publish a set of criteria that are applied in deciding who will receive an honour and who will not.

Tony Blair came to office promising high standards in public life. In fact he has debased them by presiding over a party that appears to have sold honours and sold places in the House of Lords. The Conservative Party should become a powerful voice campaigning for reform and for real standards in public life – not Tony Blair’s phoney ones.

Download THE PRICE OF DISHONOUR.pdf and read the report on Chris' paper in this morning's Telegraph.


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