TONY Blair has laid himself open to fresh accusations of cronyism after a string of Labour donors led the list of new working peers published today.
Those appointed by Mr Blair to the House of Lords include the former PowderJect boss and Labour donor Paul Drayson, and the entrepreneur Kumar Battacharyya - another significant contributor to the party coffers.
Labour supporters, who make up half of the 46 names on the list, also include Philip Gould, Mr Blair’s private pollster, Margaret McDonagh, the former Labour general secretary, and Anthony Giddens, the intellectual force behind "the Third Way".
However, accusations of cronyism could be tempered by the inclusion on the list of new Tory peers of the prominent donors Irvine Laidlaw, the Scottish entrepreneur, and Stanley Kalms, the former president of Dixons.
Other Labour supporters to feature prominently are John Maxton, the former MP for Glasgow Cathcart, Peter Snape, the former West Bromwich East MP, and Ted Rowlands, a former foreign office minister under Harold Wilson. There are also peerages for Gary Hart, a special adviser to Lord Falconer, and Janet Royall, a former aide to Neil Kinnock who now heads the European Commission Office in Wales.
Three former union leaders also become life peers - Richard Rosser, Margaret Prosser and Margaret Wall - but Sir Bill Morris and Sir Ken Jackson were surprise omissions from the list.
The inclusion of Lord Maxton and Paul Drayson will raise eyebrows at Westminster. As an MP, Lord Maxton, along with John Reid, the Health Secretary, was charged by the Parliamentary sleaze watchdog of misusing their Westminster office allowance. Both were later cleared by the Commons standards and privileges committee.
Mr Drayson’s company was embroiled in controversy after it was awarded a government contract to supply smallpox vaccine. He donated 100,000 to the Labour Party in 2001 after its election victory.
Both the National Audit Office and the Commons Public Accounts Committee later said there was no impropriety in the awarding of the contract.
Mr Drayson, who has since sold PowderJect, said he was really looking forward to serving on the Labour benches. He added: "From my point of view I have spent 20 years working in business as a science entrepreneur and I have a real interest in innovation and the commercialisation of science.
"I hope to be able to use this opportunity to promote the cause of innovation in science. I see this very much a proper job."
The Labour Party also defended his appointment. "Paul Drayson is a very successful scientist and businessman, exactly the sort of skills needed in the House of Lords.
"Now having sold PowderJect he is no longer involved in business and he will be developing the important policy areas looking to the future of British science. He sees membership of the House of Lords as a full-time job," said a spokesman.
The other Conservatives are Leonard Steinberg, founder of Stanley Leisure, Patricia Morris, vice-chairman of the Conservative Party, and Greville Howard, the chairman of Wicksteed Leisure.
The Liberal Democrat peers include Sir Iain Vallance, the vice-chairman of the Royal Bank of Scotland and former chairman of BT, Hugh Dykes the former Conservative MP who defected to the Lib Dems, Air Marshal Sir Timothy Garden, the former assistant chief of defence staff, and Rabbi Dame Julia Neuberger, the writer and broadcaster.
Pete Wishart, the Scottish National Party’s chief whip at Westminster, said the appointments were a "typical Establishment fix - a bunch of cronies appointed because of who they know, not what they know, and what they do with their money, not what they can do for society".