Theresa May in 'jobs for mates' row after ex-MP who lost in 2017 becomes minister in Lords
Theresa May has been accused of cronyism after a former Conservative MP who lost her seat in the 2017 election was handed a peerage and became a minister.
Downing Street confirmed that Nicola Blackwood - a minister in the early stage of the May government - would be given a seat in the House of Lords to take up her new post as a minister in the Department of Health.
Ms Blackwood, a former Tory vice-chairman who was seen as a rising star of the 2010 Conservative intake, lost her Oxford West and Abingdon seat to the Liberal Democrats by just 816 votes in 2017 after Mrs May decided to call a general election.
Downing Street said: “The Queen has been pleased to approve that Nicola Blackwood be appointed as a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health and Social Care.
“This follows from the resignation from Government of Lord O’Shaughnessy.
“Her Majesty has been pleased to signify Her intention of conferring a peerage of the United Kingdom for Life on Nicola Blackwood.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he was “delighted” with Ms Blackwood’s appointment, calling her a “fantastic champion of health innovation” who would bring “a wealth [of] experience to the job”.
But the move triggered an angry backlash from Labour, who accused the Prime Minister of treating democracy as “an inconvenience”.
Shadow Cabinet Office minister Jon Trickett told PoliticsHome: “It seems Theresa May has finally run out of MPs to fill her rapidly deteriorating government.
“This latest 'jobs-for-mates' appointment is an insult to those who voted Blackwood out, and reminds us yet again that this Government sees democracy as an inconvenience, and not a guiding principle.
“Labour is fully committed to radically overhauling the honours system, including peerages, as part of our plans to transform the entire political system so it works for the many and not the few.”
The Liberal Democrats also hit out at the move, saying it “completely undermined” efforts to reform the upper chamber.
Lib Dem leader in the Lords Dick Newby told PolHome: “With the announcement of another Tory peerage for life, the Prime Minister continues to move away from the proposals set out in the Burns Report which would ensure a fair reduction of numbers in the House of Lords.
“The proposed reforms are completely undermined by this appointment. If we are to make serious progress with reform of the House of Lords we need cross-party agreement and, crucially, cross-party commitment.
“Our outdated electoral system means that many feel politics does not work for them. It is long overdue that the Conservative Government stopped ignoring demands for reform.”
Other casualties of the 2017 election to be given government jobs since the snap vote include former Croydon MP Gavin Barwell, who is now Theresa May’s chief of staff, and Stewart Jackson, who served as David Davis’s top adviser before the Cabinet minister quit over Mrs May’s Brexit deal.
A Number 10 spokesperson said: “Nicola Blackwood will bring a wealth of experience to her new role, having previously served as Parliamentary Undersecretary of State at the Department from July 2016 to June 2017, during which time she oversaw the multibillion pound NHS technology budget, and national improvements in mental health care for children.
“During her seven years as an MP, Nicola Blackwood also chaired the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee.”