Cynicism abounds. Yesterday evening, when the news broke that Edward Leigh is to be appointed to the Privy Council, there was speculation that this long-convinced Eurosceptic would now join his fellow appointees, Philip Dunne and Roger Gale, in supporting the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal.
Heaven forbid that journalists should be less hard-bitten than others, but there is reason not to jump to conclusions. John Hayes was panned after becoming a knight last month, but said afterwards that he can’t support the deal as it stands. Meanwhile, Sir Edward has been promoting a particular take on the Northern Ireland backstop – namely, that it can’t be permanent under the wider provisions of the Vienna Law of Treaties.
Furthermore, the claim that political honours are only being awarded to supporters of Theresa May’s deal is not supported by one of this morning’s announcements. John Redwood is just about the last man imaginable to switch sides simply because he is to become Sir John Redwood. Or for any other reason.
The Prime Minister has been careful not to recommend knighthoods for MPs from the same wing of the Party. The other Parliamentarian to be so honoured, Gary Streeter, is left-of-Tory-centre, a committed Christian and a social justice Conservative. He gave his fellow Tory MPs some shrewd advice via this site immediately after the last election. Being so, it has thus been more or less ignored – apart from the glorious, concluding sentence: “Don’t die unless you have a majority of over 25,000”.
Sir John, as we must learn to call him, is a two-time Conservative leadership contender, has a first-rate mind, and isn’t afraid to strike out on his own. He has been the most effective head of a Downing Street Policy Unit appointed to date, serving under Margaret Thatcher during the mid-1980s. There is no reason why either man should not be knighted and we thus send congratulations to both.