Charlotte Owen, a 30-year-old former adviser to Boris Johnson, has made history by becoming the youngest peer in the House of Lords. Her appointment, along with several other close allies of the ex-prime minister, was part of Mr Johnson’s resignation honours list.
Bestowed with the title of Baroness Owen of Alderley Edge, she was officially introduced to the Lords on Monday, accompanied by Conservative Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen, who also received a life peerage through Mr Johnson’s honours list. Despite the celebratory occasion, criticism from opposition parties has been directed at the former prime minister for seemingly favoring his “cronies” with these appointments.
Baroness Owen’s political journey began as an intern in then-Chancellor George Osborne’s constituency office, paving the way for her subsequent roles as an intern for Mr Johnson during his tenure as foreign secretary, and later as a parliamentary assistant to Conservative MPs Alok Sharma and Sir Jake Berry. Her career took a significant turn when she became a special adviser in No 10 in 2021. Described as “vital to the No 10 operation” by Sir James Duddridge, who was also honored by Mr Johnson, Baroness Owen played a crucial role in facilitating communication between the Prime Minister and the parliamentary party. Her responsibilities included arranging meetings and providing timely information to Mr Johnson before key engagements.
While some commend her contributions, others have raised doubts about her seniority in the political landscape. However, this did not dampen the importance of her induction into the House of Lords, where she took the oath of allegiance to the King donned in traditional scarlet robes.
Beyond her individual achievement, Baroness Owen’s life peerage stands as a significant milestone, as she now holds the distinction of being the youngest person ever to receive this honor. Life peerages, nominated by prime ministers, opposition leaders, and party leaders, are a rare occurrence, especially for individuals at such a young age, considering the average age of members in the House of Lords is 71.
Another figure in the spotlight from Mr Johnson’s honours list is Lord Houchen of High Leven, the Tees Valley Mayor, whose peerage faced scrutiny due to an ongoing investigation into alleged “corruption” at the Teesworks development. Nonetheless, Lord Houchen defended his appointment, attributing it to his dedication to Mr Johnson’s levelling-up agenda and vehemently denying any involvement in corruption. He even personally requested the investigation to clear his name.
While Lords, except for government ministers and those in specific roles, do not receive a salary, their role in shaping and scrutinizing bills before they become law and holding the government accountable remains crucial.
In June, it was confirmed that Mr Johnson had nominated seven individuals for life peerages in his resignation honours list, including Baroness Owen. However, this list sparked controversy, with some calling on Conservative London Assembly member and former mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey to decline his peerage due to a Metropolitan Police reinvestigation into a lockdown party for his staff in December 2020.
With the arrival of Baroness Owen as the youngest peer, the House of Lords gains a fresh perspective and youthful energy to contribute to its vital functions in the legislative process and government oversight.