Rees-Mogg attacks ‘po-faced puritans’ over Truss honours criticism

Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg has attacked critics of Liz Truss’ honours list, calling them “po-faced puritans”.

The former prime minister was allowed to submit her so-called “resignation honours” after leaving office last year – a convention given to all departing leaders – and the final 11 names were announced on Friday.

But the decision has been heavily criticised due to the circumstances around Ms Truss’ exit, whose disastrous mini-budget saw her ousted from Number 10 after just 49 days.

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Labour called it “a slap in the face to working people who are paying the price of the Tories crashing the economy”, while the Liberal Democrats said it was “a shameless move to reward Liz Truss’s car crash cronies… matched only by [Rishi] Sunak’s weakness in failing to block it”.

The Electoral Reform Society’s Dr Jess Garland also told Sky News it was a “convention that has really got out of control” with more unelected politicians in parliament now than elected ones, and appealed to whoever was next in government to “grab this by the horns” and change the system.

But Sir Jacob, who served as Ms Truss’ business secretary during her short tenure and was knighted in Boris Johnson’s resignation honours, said it was “the right” of a former prime minister to make the nominations, and it was “a reasonable way to allow her to thank those who have helped her to serve in the highest elected office in the land”.

More on Jacob Rees-mogg

Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg after being made a Knight Commander of the British Empire at an investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle, Berkshire. Picture date: Wednesday September 27, 2023.
Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg was made a knight as part of Boris Johnson’s resignation honours list

He told Sky News: “Prime ministers, of all parties, need support that goes well beyond a 9 to 5 job and those who support them are trying their best to fulfil the democratic mandate held by all PMs.

“Honours have long oiled our political system and cost nothing so it is hard to see what the harm is except it upsets the po-faced puritans.”

The now backbench Tory MP also had specific criticism for the Institute for Government, whose director, Hannah White, yesterday told the BBC resignation honours brought the wider honours system into disrepute and should be scrapped.

Ms White took particular issue with the handing out of peerages – of which Ms Truss has bestowed three – saying it was wrong for a person to be given a job to legislate for life “on the say so of a single individual”.

But Sir Jacob said: “I note the Institute for Government, the Blob incarnate, never criticises honours for its civil service friends.”

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Truss resignation honours revealed

The three people awarded peerages by Ms Truss were Matthew Elliot, the political strategist and former chief executive of Vote Leave, former Vote Leave chair Jon Moynihan, and former deputy chief of staff in Number 10 Ruth Porter.

Mr Moynihan is a long-standing donor to the Tories and, since 2019, has donated £53,000 to Ms Truss alone.

A further eight honours were granted, including a damehood for Tory MP Jackie Doyle-Price and a knighthood for fellow Conservative Alec Shelbrooke.

Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh, who was made a dame for her services to parliament and politics in this year’s New Year Honours list, told Sky News it was “perplexing… that somebody who is prime minister for such a short period should have such a list”.

And she criticised that fact a number of the beneficiaries were people who had “funded and helped her campaign” to lead the Conservatives.

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