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Nadhim Zahawi lashes out at radio host as she accuses Boris of running a 'banana republic'

The TalkRADIO host clashed with the Tory MP when she claimed Boris Johnson’s nomination for his brother to join the House of Lords made the UK look like a “banana republic”. Ms Hartley-Brewer said: “The House of Lords, 36 new appointees from the Prime Minister, including his own brother and a Russian newspaper owner.

“Do we need in a banana republic now?”

But Mr Zahawi blasted: “First of all, it’s not a Russian newspaper and Jo Johnson who’s contributed both to politics in this country and of course to civil society.

“There is nothing wrong in recognising people who make a contribution to this country.

“I think what the Prime Minister has done is taking more people into the Lords who aren’t from politics that are from politics, but that shouldn’t preclude people in politics like Jo to be able to be recognised.

“The work Jo did in Government was actually one that he should be proud of.”

READ MORE: Brexiteer Claire Fox outlines her plan to abolish House of Lords

Boris Johnson was accused of “the worst kind of cronyism” after putting forward his brother Jo Johnson, several Tory grandees and his chief strategic adviser for peerages, while numerous Brexit-backers are also set to head to the Lords after Downing Street revealed its new list on Friday.

Lord Fowler, the Lord Speaker, said Mr Johnson was encouraging “passenger” peers by failing to tackle the size of the Lords, which will have almost 200 members more than the Commons with the new intake.

According to reports, 88 peers – one in nine – have not spoken, held a Government post or participated in a committee, while 46 have never recorded a vote.

It follows a report by Lord Burns in 2017 which proposed the number of peers be reduced to 600 – a move backed by the unelected House.

Former Conservative cabinet minister Lord Fowler lamented the U-turn on the promise by Theresa May, Mr Johnson’s predecessor at Number 10, to use “restraint” in appointing members to the Lords.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Saturday, Lord Fowler said: “I do think the Prime Minister has got to stop these kinds of mass appointments because I think the public are unimpressed with it, I think most of us in the House of Lords are unimpressed with it and it is not necessary – we don’t need a House of Lords of 830.

“I mean, it is ridiculous because it is far too many for the duties… we have very important duties to carry out in terms of the governance of this country but we don’t need 830 people to do it – that’s the plain fact and everyone knows that is a fact.

“What you are doing is encouraging some in the House of Lords who are quite frankly passengers and don’t make much effort in any event.”

The swathe of fresh additions would act as a “disincentive” for senior peers to retire because their exit would have “no difference” to the numbers on the red benches given the Government’s regular increases, Lord Fowler predicted.

SNP Cabinet Office spokesman Pete Wishart accused the Prime Minister of “handing out jobs for life” to friends and those “who have done him favours” after he granted peerages to his brother and former Tory minister Jo and his chief strategic adviser Sir Edward Lister, a long-term ally who supported him as London mayor.

Ex-England cricket player Sir Ian Botham, who supported the Leave campaign, newspaper owner Evgeny Lebedev and former leader of the Scottish Conservatives Ruth Davidson were also among the 36 new peerages.

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Mr Lebedev, the son of a former KGB operative, owns the Independent and Evening Standard – and has long been a friend of Mr Johnson.

Mr Wishart said: “It’s the worst kind of cronyism that only highlights the rotten Westminster system that is detached from reality.”

Downing Street insisted the Prime Minister remains committed to addressing the size of the House of Lords despite his appointment of 36 new peers.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “It remains the case that the size of the House of Lords needs addressing but given retirements and other departures some new members are needed to ensure the Lords has appropriate expertise and it continues to fulfil its role in scrutinising and revising legislation.”

The spokesman said it was a “long-standing convention that individuals can be nominated for an honour or peerage in recognition of their public and political service and that prime ministers can draw up dissolution and resignation lists”.

He rejected Lord Speaker Lord Fowler’s claim that some of the new peers would be “passengers” in the chamber.

“All of the individuals were nominated in recognition of their contribution to society and their public and political service,” the spokesman said. “



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