Allies of Boris Johnson believe Rishi Sunak has deliberately delayed the former prime minister’s resignation honours list as part of the ongoing feud between the two men.
The list is set to be published in the coming weeks, according to reports, triggering by-elections in the seats of any serving MPs who are handed a seat in the House of Lords.
But a source close to Mr Johnson said the ex-Tory leader believed a fortnight ago that it was sitting on Mr Sunak’s desk ready to be made public.
The process of scrutiny by the official Lords watchdog took several months, accounting for the bulk of the delay since Mr Johnson left office in September last year.
Among those set to be given peerages are his allies Nadine Dorries and Alok Sharma, who would have to resign from the House of Commons if they wanted to take up their Lords seats straight away. Nigel Adams and Alister Jack, the Scotland Secretary, are also said to be on the list.
Given Labour’s polling lead, the party would be optimistic about the chances of winning a by-election in Mr Sharma’s Reading West constituency, while the Liberal Democrats are set to target Mid Bedfordshire if Ms Dorries steps down. Selby and Ainsty, Mr Adams’ seat, would be another Labour target and the Scottish National Party would want to win back Dumfries and Galloway from Mr Jack.
Other names previously reported to be on Mr Johnson’s honours list include his own father, Stanley, who was said to be in line for a knighthood.
Mr Sunak and Mr Johnson have not held a meeting with each other since the former resigned from the latter’s Cabinet almost a year ago. A clear-the-air conversation proposed by Mr Johnson was pencilled in last week but scrapped by Mr Sunak.
The Liberal Democrats said the current Prime Minister should veto his predecessor’s honours list. Deputy leader, Daisy Cooper, said: “The fact that one of the most scandal-ridden prime ministers is now allowed to stuff his cronies in the Lords after a failed premiership tells the British public everything they need to know about this Conservative Party.
“Boris Johnson caused crisis after crisis in this country — if Rishi Sunak rewards his failure it’s just proof it is one rule for the Conservatives and another for everyone else. The buck stops with Sunak — he must ensure that Johnson’s honours list is put through the shredder.”
Asked about the issue during his trip to the US, Mr Sunak said: ““I can completely understand the interest in this topic. All I can say is there is a process that is currently under way. It has not concluded yet and until it does, it would not be right for me to comment any further.”