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Rishi Sunak has been criticised for announcing a “surprise” round of honours – including a knighthood for a major donor to the Conservative Party.

It was announced on the Thursday before the Easter bank holiday weekend that Mohamed Mansour was being knighted for business, charity and political service – he had given £5m to the Tories in 2023 and is a senior treasurer at the party.

A number of Conservative MPs were also made knights and dames.

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Labour’s chair, Anneliese Dodds, said Mr Sunak‘s nominations were “either the arrogant act of an entitled man who’s stopped caring what the public thinks, or the demob-happy self-indulgence of someone who doesn’t expect to be prime minister much longer”.

Asked by Sky News if Labour would rule out giving donors honours if they were in government, Ms Dodds said giving money should not be an “automatic pass”.

Following the announcement, Mr Mansour said: “This award is the greatest honour of my life. I am thrilled and hugely grateful.

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“This award would have meant so much to my father and mother. I wish they could have lived to see this day. This honour is for them, for the values they taught my siblings and I and for everything they did for us.”

Downing Street sources highlighted Mr Mansour’s work supporting charities – including financially backing a memorial to those who died due to COVID.

Speaking to Sky News, Conservative peer and polling expert Lord Robert Haywood said the public would be “unhappy” with the move.

While some non-political figures – like director Christopher Nolan – were also knighted, it’s the political acts that will draw attention.

Mohamed Mansour, who has been knighted by Rishi Sunak. Pic: Reuters
Image:
Mohamed Mansour, who has been knighted by Rishi Sunak. Pic: Reuters

Lord Haywood said: “I think people don’t like it, there’s no question about that.

“The problem is that you’ve got people who are genuine philanthropists who also give money to a political party, and that’s where the line isn’t differentiated.”

He added that he was “really surprised” by the timing of the list – but it probably doesn’t say anything about the timing of a general election.

Normally, honours are granted at New Year’s on the monarch’s birthday, or after the resignation of a prime minister, although this is a convention not a rule.

The timing of the announcement, while parliament is in recess, has also raised eyebrows – although sources suggested the timing was linked to the need to make appointments to the Privy Council, including the new Welsh First Minister Vaughan Gething.

Tory MP Philip Davies was one of the Conservative MPs to be made knight. He is known for hosting a television show on GB News with his wife, fellow Conservative MP and minister Esther McVey.

Ex-sports minister Tracey Crouch will become a dame having run a review into reforming the UK football system, and farming minister Mark Spencer will also become a sir.

Treasury Select Committee chair Harriett Baldwin – a Conservative MP – will also become a dame.

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Away from politics, Mr Nolan and wife and producer Emma Thomas have been handed honours following the release of award-winning biopic Oppenheimer.

Dr Demis Hassabis, who co-founded Google’s DeepMind AI business, was also made a knight.

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Sunak set for week-long blitz of announcements amid talk of no-confidence vote and summer election

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Sunak set for week-long blitz of announcements amid talk of no-confidence vote and summer election

Rishi Sunak is undertaking a week-long blitz of activity and announcements at home and abroad in a bid to convince a sceptical party he has the ideas and drive to continue as prime minister.

After weeks of criticism about an empty legislative agenda, an inability to set the agenda, and divisions in the Tory Party dominating the headlines, this week “action man” Mr Sunak will seek to take back control with news conferences, interviews and announcements.

On the Politics At Jack And Sam’s podcast, we discuss how Mr Sunak is aware of a possible challenge to his position with a vote of no confidence after the local and mayoral elections on 2 May.

He is undertaking a burst of activity to be able to point to his MPs to a rich agenda both this side of a general election and beyond.

👉 Listen above then tap here to follow Politics at Jack at Sam’s wherever you get your podcasts 👈

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‘Patience is thin’ over Rwanda bill delays

On Monday, the PM will hold a news conference to champion the likely passage into law of the emergency Rwanda legislation first announced last year.

Then on Tuesday, he will embark on a two-day European trip, beginning in Warsaw, with a major announcement planned as part of the trip.

Some sources expect the announcement to be defence-related, possibly around jointly training troops and sharing equipment with Poland and the West Balkans.

This is Mr Sunak’s first major trip on to the world stage in months, apart from a brief visit to Ukraine.

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It follows his first set-piece speech outside the Commons last Friday about welfare reform.

Many of the ideas there were designed for the manifesto and to be implemented in the next parliament in the unlikely event the Tories win.

The looming spectre of a challenge has led to some conversations about holding the election over the summer, with the starting gun fired possibly even announced before the local elections.

This remains unlikely, however, since it would be possible for the opposition to present this as a move prompted by panic, and the Tories remain around 20 points behind in the polls.

Therefore appealing to his party to allow him to stay in the job, by showing a blizzard of action and announcements, is a priority for Mr Sunak amid continued speculation about his party’s unhappiness.

Some 57 Tory MPs voted against his flagship smoking ban policy last week, with a further more than 100 abstaining, in a sign of his lack of grip on the party.

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The Week… Rishi tries to save his skin

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The Week... Rishi tries to save his skin

Two of Westminster’s best-connected journalists, Sky News’s Sam Coates and Politico’s Jack Blanchard, guide you through their top predictions for the next seven days in British politics.

This week, they react to MP Mark Menzies’ resignation from the Conservative Party and look at what it might mean for the next election.

Also this week, Rishi Sunak is packing his bags for Europe. Jack and Sam discuss what’s on the trip’s agenda, including highly anticipated announcements on the defence of Ukraine, as well as the UK’s wider defence and warfare strategy.

Mr Sunak’s Rwanda plan could finally pass through parliament too, more than five months after he unveiled the emergency laws. Jack and Sam reveal the final stage will be far from straightforward though, with MPs told to expect a long night in the Commons.

Plus, Angela Rayner is standing in for Keir Starmer at PMQs this week, the first time she’s been in the Commons since police announced they were investigating her. Jack and Sam discuss how she’ll deal with the mounting pressure.

👉 Listen above then tap here to follow Politics at Jack at Sam’s wherever you get your podcasts 👈

Email with your thoughts and rate how their predictions play out: jackandsam@sky.uk or jackandsam@politico.co.uk

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Mark Menzies: MP accused of misusing campaign funds quits Tory Party and won’t stand at next election

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Mark Menzies: MP accused of misusing campaign funds quits Tory Party and won't stand at next election

An MP facing allegations of misusing campaign funds has quit the Conservative Party and says he won’t stand at the next general election.

Claims surfaced earlier this week in The Times that Mark Menzies had used political donations to cover medical expenses and pay off “bad people” who had reportedly locked him in a flat and demanded thousands of pounds for his release.

The backbench MP for Fylde in Lancashire disputed the allegations but was suspended from the Conservative parliamentary party while an investigation took place.

In a statement, Mr Menzies said: “It has been an enormous privilege representing the people of Fylde since 2010, but due to the pressures on myself and my elderly mother, I have decided to resign from the Conservative Party and will not stand at the forthcoming general election.

“This has been a very difficult week for me and I request that my family’s privacy is respected.”

Lancashire Police said it was reviewing “information” about Mr Menzies after Labour asked for an investigation.

Speaking to Sky News’ Electoral Dysfunction podcast, former Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson had called the latest scandal and allegations against Mr Menzies “jaw-dropping”.

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The claims surrounding Mr Menzies came to light after the outgoing MP’s former campaign manager, Katie Fieldhouse, spoke to the Times, prompting the Conservative Party to launch its own internal investigation into whether there had been a misuses of its funds.

She claimed the Conservative Party was aware the allegations about Mr Menzies were potentially criminal, alleging that the party’s chief of staff “told me that when they first took over the investigation [from the Whips’ Office] they had consulted solicitors”.

She added: “He told me on the phone, ‘the solicitor said it is fraud but you are not duty-bound to report it because it’s not Conservative Party money’.”

On Sunday a Conservative Party spokesperson said its investigation was now complete and had found there had not been a misuse of funds – but that it had identified a “pattern of behaviour that falls below the standards expected of MPs”.

“The money in question that was sent to Mark Menzies MP was signed off by the two signatories of Fylde Westminster Group,” the spokesperson said.

“This body sits outside of the remit of both the Conservative Party and Fylde Conservative Association. Therefore we cannot conclude that there has been a misuse of Conservative Party funds.

“However, we do believe that there has been a pattern of behaviour that falls below the standards expected of MPs and individuals looking after donations to local campaign funds which lie outside the direct jurisdiction of the Conservative Party.

“We will therefore be commencing with retraining individuals across the party on how to manage these accounts which fall outside of the remit of the Conservative Party and are introducing a whistleblowing helpline.”

They continued: “Furthermore, whilst outside of the initial scope of this investigation, there has also been a recommendation that the actions of the MP in question have also potentially breached the Nolan principals of public life.”

“This is due to the nature of the allegations made, but also the repetitive nature of these separate allegations. These will be reviewed by the Conservative Party’s member governance team.

“We will of course share any information with the police if they believe it would be helpful to any investigation they decide to undertake.

“Suggestions the party has not been seriously examining this matter are demonstrably false as we have worked to protect the identities of all those involved whilst the facts could be established.”

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