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LONDON, ENGLAND – JULY 07: Onlookers, including Charlotte Owen, (C) an aide to Boris Johnson, watch as Prime Minister Boris Johnson addresses the nation to announce his resignation outside 10 Downing Street, on July 7, 2022 in London, England. After a turbulent term in office, Boris Johnson will resign from his roles as Conservative Party Leader and Prime Minister today after coming under pressure from his party. Eton and Oxford-educated Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, was elected as Prime Minister in the 2019 General Election. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
What did Charlotte Owen do to deserve a peerage?

What did Charlotte Owen do to deserve a peerage?

LONDON, ENGLAND – JULY 07: Onlookers, including Charlotte Owen, (C) an aide to Boris Johnson, watch as Prime Minister Boris Johnson addresses the nation to announce his resignation outside 10 Downing Street, on July 7, 2022 in London, England. After a turbulent term in office, Boris Johnson will resign from his roles as Conservative Party Leader and Prime Minister today after coming under pressure from his party. Eton and Oxford-educated Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, was elected as Prime Minister in the 2019 General Election. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Long stories short

  • Miami prepared for protesters on Tuesday ahead of Trump’s scheduled court appearance.
  • Boris Johnson told an interviewer “I’ll be back”.
  • A “dead” woman was found breathing in her coffin during her funeral in Ecuador.

Charlotte Owen’s peerage

Charlotte Owen is 29. She has a 2:1 in history and politics, a little under three and a half years’ experience in politics excluding internships, and a seat for life in the House of Lords.

So what? Her peerage is a genuine mystery, because nothing publicly known about her suggests it is remotely warranted.

On the contrary…

  • Owen’s biography includes only short stints as an intern in PR and the House of Commons, including for Boris Johnson; work as a parliamentary assistant for Conservative MPs including Johnson; and a period as special adviser to Johnson when he was prime minister.
  • She appears on the 2022 annual register of Downing Street special advisers as a grade 2 employee on a scale from 1 to 4, 4 being the most senior, with more than two dozen substantially more experienced colleagues above her on the list.
  • As Tortoise reported yesterday, she appears to have exaggerated the amount of time spent in Number 10, claiming on LinkedIn to have worked there from February 2021 to October 2022 even though she is not listed in the June 2021 annual register.

Work in Downing Street is a big plus for any CV, but Owen’s time there appears to have been entirely in support roles. James Duddrige MP, a former parliamentary private secretary to Johnson, said yesterday she “did an outstanding job working for the boss”, albeit “in the shadows”. Two former Downing Street sources told Tortoise yesterday her elevation to the Lords was “absurd” and “staggering”.

The Lords’ work. The upper chamber of the UK’s parliament “plays a crucial role in examining bills, questioning government action and investigating public policy,” according to its website. Its members “bring experience and knowledge from a wide range of occupations”.

Prospective members are vetted by the House of Lords Appointments Commission (Holac), which says it seeks to recommend nominees who among other things

  • can make a “significant contribution” to the work of the chamber, “not only in their areas of particular interest and special expertise, but the wide range of other issues coming before the House”;
  • have “a record of significant achievement within their chosen way of life”;
  • “are able to demonstrate outstanding personal qualities, in particular integrity and independence”.

Youth is no bar to membership – the legal requirement for life peers is to be over 21 and hereditary peers have assumed titles younger than that for centuries – but it is not clear why Owen was nominated or Holac was minded to approve the nomination given its own criteria. 

The spads’ list. Names above Owen’s on the 2022 annual register of special advisers include John Bew (at grade 4), professor in history and foreign policy at King’s College, London; Samantha Cohen (4), a former head of royal communications for the Queen and now chief of staff for the global CEO of Rio Tinto; and Alex Hickman (4), a former lobbyist, entrepreneur and foreign policy adviser to David Cameron. None has been recommended for a peerage.

Those who have been elevated along with Owen include Kulveer Ranger, a communications consultant and former transport policy adviser to Johnson when he was mayor of London. Ranger was initially entered on Johnson’s honours list as a special adviser to the government, but following Tortoise’s report yesterday that no official record exists of Ranger in such a role, his entry on the gov.uk website seems to have been amended.

The case for change. There are many talented and experienced people in the House of Lords but none has been elected. Its size, with 776 sitting members, means 54 per cent of UK parliamentarians have been appointed rather than voted into office. The only bigger legislative body is China’s National People’s Congress, which unlike the UK does not preach the virtues of democracy. 

Labour’s Keir Starmer has said he would seek to abolish the Lords as prime minister. If so, Owen’s “life” peerage might be as short as her career so far. In the meantime, it threatens to pull apart what remains of the threadbare argument for an unelected upper chamber.

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Photograph Getty Images


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Photograph Dan Kitwood/Getty Images