Theresa May has faced claims of rewarding “services to the establishment” and having “doled out political favours” in the New Year Honours. Key Tory powerbroker Graham Brady, regarded as the voice of the party’s backbenches at Westminster, has been awarded a knighthood.
As chairman of the 1922 Committee, he is listened to closely by the leadership and would play a crucial role in any future leadership contest, which would be triggered if 15% of the party’s MPs – 48 at present – write to him requesting one.
Two other members of the 1922 Committee executive are also honoured, with vice-chairwoman Cheryl Gillan being made a Dame while treasurer Geoffrey Clifton-Brown is knighted.
All three backed Leave in the European Union referendum, as did a fourth Conservative MP to be honoured, veteran former minister Christopher Chope who receives a knighthood.
Their awards may be seen, in part, as offsetting the knighthood for former deputy prime minister and prominent Remain campaigner Nick Clegg.
The ex-Liberal Democrat leader remains a vocal critic of Brexit and his award was criticised by some Leavers when details leaked earlier this week.
Former Ukip leader Nigel Farage, when told of the Tory MPs and others honoured, said: “It’s services to the establishment in a sense. I suppose it’s a relief to see any Leavers on the list. The reason it’s a surprise to see Leavers on the list is previously there haven’t been any.
“But I don’t think it’s a reward for Brexit, but a reward for work to the party. The Government’s priority is keeping the party together.”
Asked if he would want to be included in a future honours list, MEP Farage replied: “It’s never been an aspiration for me but an aspiration for many who support me. What will be will be.”
Sir Geoffrey, MP for The Cotswolds, said he believed it was “completely coincidental” when asked if Brexit had influenced any of the honours.
He praised Sir Graham for his “great job” leading the 1922 Committee and Dame Cheryl for her work since becoming an MP in 1992.
On the Labour side, the Commons Deputy Speaker Lindsay Hoyle is knighted, as is Preston MP Mark Hendrick.