My election advice for Starmer? Offer a new Citizen’s Charter

A giveaway Budget in March preceding a general election in May against an improving economic backdrop: that, we’re told, is Downing Street’s favoured scenario. But still the election is Keir Starmer’s to lose, so here’s my start-the-year advice to him. Don’t bang on about Rishi Sunak being too rich; don’t make immigration the issue, because you have no solutions; don’t pretend to admire Margaret Thatcher; but do channel John Major – to whom you bear much closer comparison – and offer a new Citizen’s Charter. What? Isn’t that 1991 exercise in footling managerialism, forever associated with the ‘cones hotline’, remembered as a laughable failure? Maybe, but its intention was good:

The problem with Boris’s honours list

There are plenty of Boris Johnson hangovers to give Rishi Sunak a headache these days. The privileges committee investigation into whether the former prime minister misled parliament will soon be in full swing. This doesn’t just mean that ‘partygate’ will be back in the news. If the committee finds Johnson guilty then Sunak could face the unappetising prospect of deciding whether to whip his party to vote either way in relation to any recommended punishment (such as a suspension) and what to do himself. For now though, it’s another Johnson legacy issue in the news: his resignation honours list. As I first reported in January, those privy to the full

Which prime ministers have faced the longest wait for honours?

Waiting for the gong Tony Blair was knighted, 14 years after leaving Downing Street. How long have other ex-PMs had to wait to be honoured? Edward Heath knighted in 1992, 18 years after leaving office. Harold Wilson awarded peerage on leaving Commons in 1983, 7 years after resigning as PM. Jim Callaghan awarded peerage on leaving House of Commons in 1987, 8 years after leaving office. Margaret Thatcher awarded peerage in 1992 on leaving House of Commons. John Major knighted in 2005, 8 years after leaving office. Said to have rejected peerage on leaving Commons in 2001. Gordon Brown, David Cameron, and Theresa May are still waiting. Unjabbed nations How

The paradoxical integrity of our dodgy honours system

We are told that the Prince of Wales had no idea at the time that his underlings were offering to sell honours to random zillionaires. That’s lucky. Instead of being tarred by the sticky brush of corruption, then, he emerges from this minor scandal as a benign old nitwit, shovelled from one place to another by his suited aides, shaking hands and offering tea to this Russian biznizman, that Chinese philanthropist, that Saudi moneybags (‘Mahfouz bin Mahfouz, Sir. Very important chap. Great benefactor.’ ‘Yes, jolly good. Have you come far, Mr Mahfouz?’) I’m inclined to take the denial that he knew what was going on pretty much at face value. It’s

What more do I have to do to get a peerage?

Watching Lord Hannan of Kingsclere being introduced in the House of Lords on Monday was a bittersweet moment. On the one hand, I’m delighted for Dan. He is one of the heroes of Brexit, and his impromptu speech about Margaret Thatcher in the pub following her memorial service brought a tear to my eye (you can find his speech on YouTube). But on the other, I can’t help thinking: where’s my bloody peerage? I’ve edited this and that, co-founded four free schools, served on the boards of numerous charities and set up the Free Speech Union. I was the chief exec of a high-profile charity, for Christ’s sake, and my