British Prime Minister David Cameron has been accused of cronyism after it was revealed he has recommended his party’s election strategist, the Australian-born Lynton Crosby, for a knighthood.
The Queen will confer a knighthood on Mr Crosby, 58, during the New Year Honours ceremony, The Sunday Times reported exclusively on Monday morning (AEDT).
An opposition spokesman slammed the decision as “an insult to the country’s heroes” and a political reform advocate said it “demeans” the United Kingdom’s honours system, according to The Sunday Times.
Mr Crosby was dubbed the “Wizard of Oz” after being credited with engineering the Conservative party’s first outright win in more than three decades in May, 2015. He is also called the “Master of the Dark Arts” after a character in the Harry Potter series.
The political strategist joined the PM’s team in 2013 after working for London mayor Boris Johnson, also a member of the Conservative party.
Mr Crosby served as The Liberal of Australia’s deputy federal director and deputy director in the 1990s after acting as a political advisor to John Howard in the 1980s.
The strategist founded a lobbying firm, The CT Group, with pollster Mark Textor.
Tobacco giant Philip Morris was a client of The CT Group when the UK government dropped its plan to enforce Australian-style plain packaging cigarettes. Mr Crosby denied having any hand in the decision.
The knighthood revelation prompted political commentators and Cameron’s political foes to argue he is using the honours system reward his friends, allies and donors — a claim he has faced before.
Such controversies can be political fatal, as proven in Australia, where former Prime Minister Tony Abbott suffered when he recommend a knighthood for Prince Philip, a decision widely ridiculed in the Australian media.
The official UK government website says the honours system is designed to recognise those who have “made achievements in public life” and “committed themselves to serving and helping Britain”, citing the examples of volunteerism, community work, innovation and “moral courage” as worthy achievements.