Downing Street has said that John Sentamu will be given a life peerage “imminently”, following widespread anger that Britain’s first black archbishop was left off Boris Johnson’s honours list.
The former Archbishop of York was expected to get an automatic life peerage to allow him to continue sitting in the House of Lords in a personal capacity following his retirement in June.
But in what The Sunday Times describes as an “extraordinary snub”, Downing Street failed to announce Sentamu’s peerage when he stepped down, “breaking the precedent set for his predecessor, Lord Hope, and the immediate past Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams”.
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And Sentamu’s subsequent omission from Johnson’s honours list has fuelled accusations of “institutional prejudice”. Newly enthroned Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell tweeted on Sunday that he was “disturbed to find out today whether it be through negligence or intent my predecessor @Sentamu has not been given the peerage that has been the custom for many years. I trust this will soon be rectified.”
Downing Street said this weekend that the omission was down to the need to reduce numbers in the Lords. But that claim was “met with fury” from critics who pointed out that the prime minister’s brother, Jo Johnson, was among the 36 appointments on the honours list, says Sky News.
Shadow justice secretary David Lammy MP tweeted: “No 10 snubbed Britain’s first black archbishop for a peerage because it says the House of Lords is too large, but it made room for Ian Botham, Claire Fox and Theresa May’s husband.”
Tory MP and former cabinet minister David Davis agreed on Twitter that Downing Street had made “made a mistake” in not ennobling Sentamu.
A government source told the Daily Mail this weekend that the peerage was delayed because officials wanted to make sure Sentamu was not criticised in an ongoing abuse inquiry.
The source said that although there was “never any suggestion that the archbishop was involved in the scandal”, he was a “senior figure in the Church which was subject to an on-going process”.
But Downing Street now “appears to have U-turned”, with a Whitehall source saying last night that Sentamu’s peerage is “imminent”, Sky News reports.
The Whitehall insider claimed the delay was down to a procedural hold-up, despite The Sunday Times reporting that Sentamu had previously been told that he “would have to wait until the next round”.
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