Theresa May plunged into cronyism row over knighthood for Brexiteer ex-minister
Theresa May has been accused of "cronyism" after handing a knighthood to a Tory Brexiteer just weeks before a crunch Commons vote on her EU deal.
In a surprise move, Number 10 announced that John Hayes, who Mrs May sacked as a transport minister in January, is to become a Sir.
But the honour for the South Holland and The Deepings MP sparked an angry backlash from Conservatives, who accused the Prime Minister of awarding it so Mr Hayes could persuade his colleagues to support her Brexit blueprint.
Mrs May is facing the prospect of a humiliating defeat when her Brexit deal comes before the Commons next month, with dozens of Tories vowing to vote it down.
A Downing Street source said Mr Hayes "has served with ability in several government departments and is a dedicated member of parliament".
But Tory MP Crispin Blunt, another Brexiteer former minister, said: "The knighthood for John Hayes adds further lustre to his astonishing record of public service and is a proper addition to his very well-merited CBE.
"I'm delighted for him and very pleased he assured me in terms as recently as Tuesday that he would be opposing the Prime Minister’s EU withdrawal deal. His deep attachment to principle will certainly mean there has been no change in that position."
Another Conservative backbencher told PoliticsHome: "This is another nice and easy thing to defend on the doorsteps. When we go into No10 we’re told perception is everything. You couldn’t make it up."
Labour MP Jo Stevens, of the Best for Britain pro-EU campaign group, said: "This stinks of cronyism. It seems that in order to pass its unpopular Brexit deal, the government is willing to hand out knighthoods left, right and centre.
"Instead of sneaking out rewards for loyalty on a Friday, the Government ought to come clean with the public and tell them that Brexit will leave us poorer and more isolated on the world stage. Then the public can decide whether they want to continue with this shambles, or stay and lead in Europe."
Meanwhile, Mrs May has refused to rule out resigning as Prime Minister if her Brexit deal is rejected by MPs.