United Kingdom

Outrage as Tory donor given prominent position in UK honours system

A TORY donor has been given a significant role within the UK’s honours system, according to reports.

The Observer has revealed that John Booth, a venture capitalist who has donated more than £200,000 to the Tories, has been made the “independent chair” of a committee that oversees honours in the arts and media.

The position also allows him a place on the main honours committee which considers all awards.

Booth’s new job follows his appointment as the chair of the National Gallery last year. The announcement has come alongside complaints that cultural posts have been awarded to individuals close to the Tory party.

This follows reports of several Tory donors being given positions after an effort was made at the beginning of Boris Johnson’s time as Prime Minister to “rebalance representation” on public bodies.

So far, donors have been given seats on the boards of the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery, the Tate and the British Museum.

Booth’s new position will afford him a key role in putting names forward for gongs. Concerns have been raised that interference could lead to those critical of the Government being excluded from lists for honours and those who support the Government’s agenda being championed.

According to Electoral Commission records, Booth gave the Tories £207,000 in 2017.

Samir Shah, a former BBC executive, was also given a place on the arts and media honours committee. Shah was an executive on the controversial report by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, which concluded that the “claim the country is still institutionally racist is not borne out by the evidence”.

Shah has also criticised “woke warriors” in an article discussing the cultural appropriation of food.

He said he has been involved in the media industry for four decades and in museums for 17 years. He also mentioned that he was given the Royal Television Society’s “outstanding contribution” award this year.

Shah says he has never joined any political party as a member.

Anneliese Dodds, chair of the Labour party, said: “This appears to be another example of the cash for access culture that Boris Johnson has created at the heart of government. Labour will establish an independent integrity and ethics commission to clean up our politics and restore trust in public office.”

READ MORE: David Lammy condemns Labour MPs who joined rail workers on the picket line

The LibDems said that a Tory donor being appointed as independent chair “frankly makes a mockery of the honours committee as a body”.

Wendy Chamberlain, the LibDem chief whip, said: “The selection of some of these individuals, given their political affiliations, is questionable at best and wildly inappropriate at worst. The Conservatives seem hellbent on muddying the waters of our most respected institutions. They should keep their fingerprints off the honours committee.”

A Government spokesperson said: “All members of this committee went through fair and open competition, using the principles of the Commissioner for Public Appointments. There is a diverse range of views and perspectives on the committee – from across the political spectrum.”

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