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WATSON: Chakrabarti Peerage a mistake

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Corbyn deputy challenges his only nominee in the honours list

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn with Shami Chakrabarti and others during a campaign
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn with Shami Chakrabarti and others during a campaign

Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson has said it was a “mistake” for the party to nominate Shami Chakrabarti for a peerage as part of David Cameron’s resignation honours.

Mr Watson, who had called for Labour to boycott the process, told the BBC he had not been consulted about the move.

He praised Ms Chakrabarti as “precisely the sort of person” who should be a peer, but said the timing was wrong.

Some Jewish groups have questioned her peerage, so soon after she chaired an inquiry into anti-Semitism in Labour. Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said her report’s credibility now “lies in tatters” after she accepted the peerage.

Those given peerages are entitled to sit in the Lords for life. They must be approved by the House of Lords Appointments Commission. The new appointments mean the Conservatives will have one more life peer than Labour – 207 to 206 – but are still well short of an overall majority, partly due to the large number of crossbench members.

Opposition leaders can nominate peers on several occasions, including at the end of each Parliament in what is known as the dissolution honours list but also when a prime minister leaves office.

Ms Chakrabarti was Mr Corbyn’s only nomination as part of David Cameron’s resignation list – which also saw peerages for 13 Conservatives and two civil servants.

The former director of civil liberties group Liberty chaired an independent inquiry into anti-Semitism in Labour, whose conclusion in June that Labour was not “overrun” by anti-Semitism was contested by some.

Shadow health secretary Diane Abbott, a close ally of Mr Corbyn’s, said the Lords needed “real people” with expertise like Ms Chakrabarti.

“If anyone should be in the House of Lords on merit, if anyone should be an example to young women from diverse communities, it is Shami Chakrabarti,” she told the BBC News Channel.