The Roman Emperor Caligula reportedly planned to appoint his horse consul. As Prime Minister, Robert Salisbury appointed his nephew Arthur Balfour as Chief Secretary of Ireland in 1887. Hence, some say the phrase "Bob is your uncle".
I wonder if a phrase will go down in the language when Boris Johnson hands out a significant other to his younger brother Jo, one of 36 new colleagues. Perhaps "making yo" means winning a significant award in an undeserved or unpredictable way.
Jo Johnson was a competent middle-ranking minister for three years until he threw in the towel last year and cited an "insoluble tension" between family loyalty and national interest. He was a passionate remainer who couldn't stand Brexit.
It is rare for a former minister of relatively low status and comparative youth (Jo is 48) to be cohabited. But if your brother is a prime minister who doesn't care, the convention can be overturned.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street for PMQs in the House of Commons on July 15th. Let's get Boris Johnson to mind. He's a decent guy with a generous soul. He wants the people around him to be happy
We come to Boris Johnson, whom I studied quite a bit. He's a decent guy with a generous soul. He wants the people around him to be happy. He felt guilty that his brother's brief ministerial career was being cut short.
And so, like a benevolent medieval monarch who gave presents to a favored follower, he found a nobility for his younger brother. Kind of consolation. At least Jo will wear ermine and run big. Who knows, maybe one day he will be offered a ministerial position again without having to submit to the electorate.
It is of course outrageous to distribute this peerage to a sibling who otherwise would not have deserved it. Shameless. Presumptuous. Arrogant. Boris treats the public as if it were his private domain. This is where the corruption begins.
Here's the amazing thing. Almost no one in public life or in the media seems to care. There has been some grumbling in the press and Norman Fowler, the Lord Speaker, has complained that the House of Lords is getting too big. However, allegations of nepotism were sparse.
Even the Boris-hating Guardian has mostly kept their hands in their pockets. Some have suggested this because Jo is a remainer married to one of the newspaper's columnists who doesn't want to upset her. Maybe.
But in fact, surprisingly little has been smoked about Boris' other new colleagues, some of whom are almost as undeserved as Jo. Did you fall asleep in the Guardian? Or have they written off the PM and can't get upset about what they think is a trivial problem?
What about Tories wishing Boris well and not wanting him to send water early in his tenure? Why don't they publicly call for caution, restraint, and righteousness?
Jo Johnson (pictured last September) was a competent middle-ranking minister for three years until he threw in the towel last year and cited an "insoluble tension" between family loyalty and national interest
It's very strange. Compare the previously muted response to Mr Johnson's list of colleagues with the wail of anger and indignation that welcomed the honors of his Labor predecessor Harold Wilson's resignation in 1976.
This was the infamous "lavender list" so described because it was written on lavender-colored writing paper by Wilson's advisor and possibly his lover, Marcia Falkender.
It undoubtedly contained some unworthy recipients of honor. In particular, there were two crooked businessmen: Joseph Kagan, who was cohabited and later convicted of fraud; and Eric Miller, who was knighted and killed himself in a police investigation the following year.
In Wilson's partial defense, his seedy list marked the end of his tenure, while Boris Johnson's controversial nominations were near the start of his tenure. And at least Wilson didn't ennoble any member of his own family.
Check out some of Boris' other colleagues. There is Evgeny Lebedev, son of a former Russian KGB spy who became a multimillionaire oligarch. Using his father's money, he has tried, with limited success, to turn over two warring British newspapers. Both Lebedevs deserve some credit for this.
But a nobility? Giving such an honor to the son of an ex-KGB officer is risky to say the least. In addition, the young Lebedev and the Prime Minister are close. Friends of Evgeny tell me that Boris visited the Russian's villa in Italy at least six times (he has a separate castle nearby). It doesn't smell right.
Other lucky beneficiaries include Henry Bellingham, a longtime MP from Backwoods and Old Etonian. Like Va Johnson, a former middle-ranking minister, Ed Vaizey surprisingly becomes a peer. Interestingly, his late father was on the lavender list of controversy.
Granted, many of Boris' nominations for Peerages are not exceptional. No one could reasonably make fun of the inclusion of former Chancellors Ken Clarke and Philip Hammond. Margaret Thatcher's biographer and former newspaper editor Charles Moore will be a gem for the Lords, though I wish he hadn't recently described Boris as a "genius".
Boris believes he can get away with it – just as he apologetically given his colleague Zac Goldsmith (pictured in February) a nobility after he lost his seat in last December's elections. Goldschmied continued as environment minister as if nothing had happened
Former Labor Brexiteers Frank Field, Gisela Stuart and Kate Hoey deserve to be redeemed, though I'm not so sure about former Brexit MEP and Claire Fox, Moral Radio on BBC Radio 4. It's strange to see her elevated while being overlooked her old boss, Nigel Farage, whom Boris doesn't like.
An interesting footnote. While I don't give in to anyone in my admiration for ex-newspaper editor Veronica Wadley, I find her husband Tom Bower preparing a biography of the Prime Minister. I hope Boris has no intention of blunting his normally hard pen. Andrew Gimson, a former biographer, says Boris offered him £ 100,000 to scrap his book.
All in all, this was an incomplete list with some indistinguishable names and several unsuitable nominations. Boris assumes that he can get away with it – just as he apologetically gave his colleague Zac Goldsmith a nobility after he lost his seat in the elections last December. Goldschmied continued as environment minister as if nothing had happened.
This habit of defying convention and not caring about what people think has become a feature of Mr. Johnson's tenure. We saw it in his relaxed response to his friend and advisor Dominic Cummings' ban violations. Robert Jenrick's scandalous offense against planning law was also not taken seriously by No. 10.
It is as if the prime minister's loyalty to those close to him or who are useful to him transcends general considerations of appropriate, decent behavior. How else can you explain that he made his younger brother his peer?
So far, there have not been any very harmful consequences among his followers. But I don't think the "Red Wall" stories to be consumed in an economic tsunami will kindly take evidence of nepotism or the revelation that Boris' friends live by different rules.
Boris has always been pretty shameless, but he once understood that most people don't like abuse of power. I remember him describing to me around 2004 Cherie Blair arriving in a motorcade outside a restaurant in London's West End as if she were Eva Peron or Imelda Marcos. He didn't like that.
Right now, people may not be very interested in his list of colleagues. But there is a growing feeling that there is one set of rules for Boris and his friends and another for the rest of us. If this is not checked, it could one day be fatal.
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