In a significant development, Charlotte Owen, a 30-year-old former adviser to Boris Johnson, has been appointed as the youngest peer in the House of Lords. This prestigious honor was conferred upon her, along with several other allies of the ex-prime minister, as part of Mr Johnson’s resignation honours list.
Taking on the title of Baroness Owen of Alderley Edge, she was formally introduced to the Lords on Monday alongside Ben Houchen, the Conservative Mayor of Tees Valley, who also received a life peerage through Mr Johnson’s list. However, opposition parties did not hold back in criticizing the former prime minister for allegedly favoring his “cronies” with these appointments.
Baroness Owen’s career trajectory began as an intern in the constituency office of then-Chancellor George Osborne. She subsequently gained experience by interning for Mr Johnson during his tenure as foreign secretary and later served as a parliamentary assistant to Conservative MPs Alok Sharma and Sir Jake Berry. In 2021, she reached a pinnacle in her career by joining No 10 as a special adviser, a role that proved to be of immense significance to the functioning of the Prime Minister’s office. According to Sir James Duddridge, who was also honored by Mr Johnson, Baroness Owen played a vital role in bridging the gap between the Prime Minister and the entire parliamentary party. Her responsibilities included organizing meetings and providing Mr Johnson with critical information just moments before important engagements, ensuring he was well-prepared.
While some lauded her contributions, others have raised objections, labeling her as a relatively junior figure within the political landscape. Nevertheless, Baroness Owen’s induction into the House of Lords was marked with a brief but solemn ceremony, during which she pledged her allegiance to the King while wearing traditional scarlet robes.
Beyond being a personal accomplishment, Baroness Owen’s life peerage is historically noteworthy, making her the youngest individual ever to receive this honor. Life peerages, typically nominated by prime ministers, opposition leaders, and other party leaders, are rare, and it is worth noting that the average age of House of Lords members is 71.
Another figure receiving attention in Mr Johnson’s honours list is Lord Houchen of High Leven, the Tees Valley Mayor, whose peerage was also questioned by some opposition MPs due to an ongoing investigation into alleged “corruption” at the Teesworks development. However, Lord Houchen has staunchly defended his appointment, attributing it to his dedication to Mr Johnson’s levelling-up agenda and vehemently denying any involvement in corrupt practices. He has even voluntarily requested the investigation to clear his name.
It is important to mention that except for government ministers and individuals holding specific roles, Lords do not receive a salary. Instead, they can claim £342 for each day they attend the House. Despite not being financially compensated, their role in shaping and scrutinizing bills, as well as holding the government accountable, remains essential.
In June, it was officially announced that Mr Johnson had nominated seven individuals for life peerages in his resignation honours list, including Baroness Owen. However, the list stirred controversy, with some urging 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 Baroness Owen’s entrance into the House of Lords, a new and youthful voice joins the ranks of this venerable institution, adding her perspective and expertise to the critical legislative and oversight functions of the chamber.