It struck me yesterday that the new cash for influence scandal would surely put paid to any chance of a peerage in the dissolution honours for the retiring Cabinet ministers involved – Byers, Hoon and Hewitt.
But then, I wondered, which of the retiring Labour MPs would Gordon Brown afford a seat in the Lords?
In his pre-election dissolution honours in 1997, 21 retiring MPs from all parties were awarded life peerages by John Major, including former Conservative Cabinet ministers Kenneth Baker, John Biffen, David Howell, Douglas Hurd, Michael Jopling, Paul Channon, Sir Patrick Mayhew and John Patten, along with former Chief Whips Tim Renton and Richard Ryder.
A number of Cabinet ministers defeated at the general election were later rewarded in Major's resignation honours – although former Chancellor Norman Lamont had to wait until 1998 when William Hague included him on a list of working peers.
The list of Labour MPs retiring at this election (kept here by Anthony Wells) includes a number of former Cabinet Ministers. A quick scan down the list and the following names jump out at me:
- Hilary Armstrong
- Des Browne
- Stephen Byers
- Patricia Hewitt
- Geoff Hoon
- John Hutton
- Ruth Kelly
- Ian McCartney
- Alan Milburn
- John Prescott
- James Purnell
- John Reid
- Gavin Strang
What is striking is that the majority of them are Blairites, whom I imagine would not be very near the top of the list of people who could expect preferment from Gordon Brown. The three involved in the cash for influence scandal all have form when it comes to plotting against Brown, for example, and who could forget what John Hutton said about him?
I can't imagine us not being treated to the sight of former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott in ermine, but as for the others, I'm really not sure. Will the dissolution honours be another opportunity for Brown to settle old scores?
In terms of other Labour MPs quitting, retiring Deputy Speaker Sylvia Heal can probably expect a peerage as a result of having held that office, whilst long-serving pairing whip Tommy McAvoy is another non-Cabinet retiree who might expect to be ennobled. And will West Yorkshire MP Colin Challen be rewarded for stepping down to ensure that Ed Balls had a seat in which to stand?
NB Please keep the discussion below to the Labour retirees. Another thread will follow in due course to discuss which retiring Conservative MPs should be ennobled.