Happy Birthday, Your Majesty. I’m sure you’ll all join me in warmly sending your heartfelt best wishes to the Queen, and I imagine we all enjoyed the pomp and circumstance of “Trooping the Colour”, yesterday.
As is tradition when the Queen celebrates her birthday (her second, of course), an “Honours” list is announced. It recognises individuals who have made remarkable contributions to society, in all fields – from politics, to music and the arts.
Another group of people who, like the Queen, will be celebrating are friends of the Tory party. The list of awards this year was nothing short of a back-scratching exercise for donors, advisors, supporters and individuals walking through the “revolving door”.
The list included an eye-watering 41 civil servants or government advisors – and some notable names stood out.
Louise Casey, responsible for the “Troubled Families” initiative, which was criticised for not addressing the underlying issues surrounding socioeconomic problems within society, and also basing the scheme on flawed research. Jeremy Moore, Director General of Strategy at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) – in charge of welfare and pensions reform. Rachel Hopcroft, Deputy Director of the Cabinet Office, who formerly worked for Jeremy Heywood (accused of attempting to obstruct the Chilcot Inquiry), and who is also Director of Corporate Affairs at KPMG.
Martin Donnelly, the civil servant on over £160,000 a year. Previously working for Leon Brittan, in April was accused of misleading MP’s over the closure of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) largest office outside of London – who was told the information he provided to an inquiry was “wholly unsatisfactory”. The BIS under his watch has also been criticised for acting too slowly during the Tata Steel crisis.
Then there’s Colin Dingwall, in charge of electoral registration. To say that that’s gone well of late may be an understatement, with the fiasco surrounding the problems with registering to vote in the EU referendum. Of course, we mustn’t forget nearly 800,000 people being taken off the electoral register as well.
The Queen would appear to like Universal Credit, as the three civil servants responsible for its shambolic roll-out, Ian Wright, Tim Mazzucchi and Keith Watson have all been given gongs. Awards for abject failure must be something new in Buckingham Palace. Also from the DWP were Sarah Scullion (Head of HR), Mary Hipkin (Head of child maintenance policy), Davina Blake (Executive Officer) and Tom McCormack (Head of child maintenance reform). Everyone’s favourite department has come off rather well.
HMRC didn’t fair too badly, either. Three gongs were awarded. One to Graham Brammer, in charge of debt management, who was previously the head of the Pensions Regulator and before that a Director at Barclays (there’s that revolving door). Another went to Melissa Tatton, Director of individual and small businesses, and one went to Stuart Condie, the civil servant in charge of tax avoidance. Tatton also chairs the institute’s Transfer Pricing Board, which sets the agenda on how to deal with tax avoidance. How’s clawing back that avoided tax going, guys?
Private healthcare was also recognised, with awards going to Bryan Morton, the Chair of EUSA (a pharmaceutical company) who is also a board member of Syncona (an investment company for private healthcare); Simon Cartmell, an Operating Partner with Imperial Innovations (another private healthcare company) and Margaret Serna, Chair of UK Ambulances 2 – a private firm who run the beleaguered East of England ambulance service and are linked to tax avoidance via Luxembourg. Anyone would think that there was an NHS up for sale.
Moving on, and immigrants (just to continue with the current obsession the rest of the country has) featured heavily – but not actual immigrants. Karen Abdel-Hady, Head of Immigration Detention Operations and Stephen Kershaw, Director of Strategy and Partnerships for Immigration Enforcement were both recognised. Even after the disgusting fiasco surrounding the Harmondsworth detention centre.
You’d be mistaken for thinking the government had an agenda to push regarding the academisation of schools, as gongs were given out to seven individuals in charge of various academy trusts. The Panama Papers also put in an appearance, with John Armitage (Hedge fund Manager for Egerton Capital) awarded because of his “charitable trust” – who interestingly just donated a six-figure sum to Cameron’s “Remain” campaign in the EU referendum. Egerton has multiple subsidiaries named in the Mossack Fonseca leaks.
No Queens Birthday Honours would be complete with acknowledging the invaluable work of those who contribute to the design of, or produce weapons that kill people. The Weir Group (who sub-contract out weapons manufacturing for the Royal Navy) and a consultant from the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AME) were all given a nod. Furthermore, Lord Smith of Kelvin (owner of Weir Group) was in charge when the group was caught-up in a lobbying scandal with George Robertson, former Secretary General of NATO – after it had paid him £32,000. For what? I think you can guess. Keith Cochrane, the Chief Executive of Weir Group (again) was also appointed to the Scotland Office in an advisory role by David Mundell.
Of course, business and banking has to feature as well.
Damon Buffini, Chair of Permira Private Equity Firm who specialise in company buy-outs by lending money via tax havens like Luxembourg and the Channel Islands was awarded. Peter Wood, owner of Direct Line and esure and Chair of the Royalton Property Group Holdings, (who is worth an estimated £500m) was given a gong. And has given £200,000 to the Tories in donations.
Then there’s Simon Duffy (a Tory donor to the tune of £3,200), owner of Bulldog skincare; Jackie Henry who is a partner with government consultants Deloitte; Trevor Garlick, a Regional Director for BP (anyone for fracking?) and Timothy Steiner, a former Goldman Sachs banker, now CEO of Ocado – which is oddly owned by government advisor Stuart Rose.
We must also give a mention to Tracey McDermott, acting Chief Executive of the Financial Conduct Authority – who have been heavily criticised for their “light touch” surrounding banking regulation.
Also Terry Morgan, non-executive Director of Mitie until 2013, during which time the Campsfield Immigration detention centre suffered numerous hunger strikes, a suicide and mass protests due to the company’s incompetence. He was also the CEO of TubeLines Ltd, which under his tenure were engaged with countless industrial disputes with staff.
Finally, just to round of this roll-call of “Who Really Shouldn’t Be Who” – the Tories have given gongs to some of their own.
Steve Bell, President of the National Conservative Association; Michael Chattey, Head of Tory party fundraising; Edward Whiting, the PM’s own private secretary; Dudley Bryant
Conservative Association President for Boston and Skegness; Mary Harper, Chair of “Conservatives Abroad”; Alex Fergusson, former Scottish Tory politician and Desmond Swayne, Conservative MP for New Forest West and former parliamentary aide to Cameron.
Furthermore, 22 of those awarded gongs this June are all vocal supporters of Cameron’s “In” campaign for the EU referendum. Coincidence? Draw your own conclusions.
What is most frustrating about awards being given to the “rogues gallery” mentioned above, is that it undermines the truly deserving people who have been recognised.
But sadly, the system of governance we have in the UK means that the incumbent party can scratch the backs’ of whoever they wish, without recourse – knowing their backs’ will be scratched in return.
There are many arguments for the abolishment of the monarchy – and maybe this is one of the more pertinent ones.
But hey – at least Ant and Dec have finally been recognised.
“I’m a republican! Get me out of here!”