Cameron naïve over 'embarrassing' resignation honours leaks, PRs say

David Cameron will be embarrassed by ongoing stories picking apart the list of people he selected for 'resignation honours' on leaving Number 10, but he should have seen the scandal coming, according to one former Downing Street adviser.

David Cameron: Dishonourable in resignation gongs list? (credit: Brett Jordan via Flickr)
David Cameron: Dishonourable in resignation gongs list? (credit: Brett Jordan via Flickr)

Reports in several different newspapers in recent weeks have indicated that the former PM has put forward a number of his close allies for inclusion in his resignation honours list, leading to accusations of cronyism, and criticism of the honours regime.

Further leaks have suggested concerns among Whitehall officials about the ex-PM's picks. Cameron's Downing Street director of external comms Gabby Bertin and head of strategic comms Laura Trott were reportedly among the names on a list of those lined up to get peerages, while director of comms Craig Oliver is also likely to receive an honour. However, The Times reported on 22 July that officials in the Cabinet Office are reportedly looking to block these.

However, the Daily Mail today carries the front page headline 'Honours: the stench grows' and reports "sources" saying that Whitehall officials were powerless to halt it.

Chris Rumfitt, who worked with Alastair Campbell and Tony Blair in Downing Street and is now the CEO of Field Consulting, said: "From my experience, the people running the honours system are very proper in how they run the system, and after six years working with them, DC should have recognised that they were going to be uncomfortable with some of the names put forward.

"I’ve never known a Prime Minister to make so many special advisers peers – imagine if Tony Blair had made AC and Jonathan Powell lords – there would have been outrage."

Rumfitt said that Brexit would remain Cameron's legacy, with other issues such as this likely to be "forgotten in the mists of time", but commented that this row does "leave a very bad odour".

Former Conservative parliamentary candidate Ed McRandal – now an associate director at the agency ICG – said: "Leaking is often seen as a governmental pressure valve, releasing bad news before it pours out uncontrollably. However, the release of the honours list is less of a news management exercise and more of an embarrassment to David Cameron.

"However, in any crisis there is opportunity. Theresa May could use this story to reform the honours system, signalling a break from a system the public see as cliquey, self-interested and the antithesis of being ‘all in it together."

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