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Arise, Sir John Redwood – above the Twits


THE New Year Honours list includes knighthoods for three sitting MPs. Representing Tynemouth since 1997, Labour’s deputy chief whip henceforth is titled Sir Alan Campbell, though doubtless the general public will continue to refer to him as: Who?

Also being tapped on each shoulder is veteran Conservative backbencher Gary Streeter. First elected in 1992 and boasting a Westminster career which peaked as a junior minister under John Major, this is overdue recognition for Streeter having overcome the handicap of the unfashionably proletarian forename he shares with this writer. The garlanding of Sir Gary and his enduring presence in the Commons provides inspiration to other naffly named Members, including Wayne David, Lee Rowley, Tracey Crouch and Sharon Hodgson.

Alan Campbell and Gary Streeter have largely been anonymous political journeymen and their gongs generally went unremarked. Of the trio newly ennobled ‘for political and public service’, all ordure has been heaped upon John Redwood, the only one to have held Cabinet office, challenged (twice) for his party’s leadership and actually to be known by a discernible proportion of the population.

The Redwood sage has long been a principled Eurosceptic and one-man think tank, a nonconformist who fizzes with conservative ideas much too imaginative ever to have been palatable to red Tory leaders Cameron and May. This is a view shared by LBC presenter and political commentator Iain Dale, who would ‘love to have seen him as Chancellor’. Dale believes that in contrast to the miserable incumbent of Number 11, John Redwood would have been ‘transformative and radical . . . he’d have done some very controversial things, but I have little doubt he’d have been a success’. 

Acknowledging that his opinion ‘I don’t believe that politicians should get a knighthood just for long service . . . but in John’s case he quite clearly deserves it’ might not be universally shared, Dale ended his appreciative blog with the alert: ‘Stand by for explosions on Twitter.’ Sure enough, on the Twittersphere John Redwood is widely held to be repugnant, bearing personal responsibility for climate change, food banks and homelessness, and accused of being a shyster for whom Brexit is only a cynical strategy for personal financial gain.

The deranged tweeters naturally included former cabinet minister and Labour peer Andrew Adonis – the Remainiac now determined to halt Brexit via a ‘People’s Vote’, although Lord Adonis has not previously concerned himself with the tiresome business of facing an electorate. Seemingly in all seriousness, the loopy Lord intimates that the only people less worthy of a knighthood than John Redwood are crooks, sex offenders, dictators, traitors and mass murderers.

Mental health services are stretched, but Lord Adonis has surely become a priority case for psychiatric intervention. In the meantime, perhaps his Lordship should be joined on the waiting list for treatment by Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran: ‘Knights of the realm are meant to represent the best of being British, not backstabbing Brexit extremists like John Redwood. It just shows how weak Theresa May is that she is seen to be rewarding him for his behaviour.’ 

Yes, wishing to extricate the UK fully from the tentacles of the EU, per the instruction of the referendum result, is now termed an ‘extremist’ position. Moran did not expound upon whom John Redwood supposedly has stabbed in the back, but certainly it has not been the 17.4million.

Layla Moran – widely touted as next Lib-Dem leader, heaven help us – represents the party which, while in coalition government, had in parliament the same number of knights (seven) as women.

Most likely to be remembered is Menzies (now Lord) Campbell. Alan Beith and Malcolm Bruce, also subsequently elevated to the Lords, will be vaguely recognisable names, though neither is likely to conjure any lasting impression or achievement. Anyone managing to name the other Sirs as Nick Harvey, Bob Russell, Robert Smith (not the leader of The Cure) and Andrew (now Lord) Stunell goes to the top of the class but really should get out more.

The party being slaughtered by the electorate in 2015, more Lib-Dem knighthoods were then merrily distributed to Danny Alexander, Vince Cable, Ed Davey and Simon Hughes. And after the voters of Sheffield Hallam finally tired of Nick Clegg, the number of coalition rejects who subsequently were knighted increased, becoming a queasy quintet.

Sir Nicholas Clegg has described Brexit as ‘curiously un-British’, whatever that meant. All too British, however, is a debased honours system which disproportionately has doled out knighthoods and peerages to time-serving Liberal Democrats, very few of whom satisfied the criterion set by Layla Moran to ‘represent the best of being British’.

Yet she now has the gall to complain that a knighthood has gone to John Redwood – a ‘backstabber’ according to Lib-Dem Moran, whereas her own party evidently has produced more than its share of backscratchers.

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Gary Oliver
Gary Oliver
Gary Oliver is an accountant who lives in East Lothian.

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