Who is Charlotte Owen? Why did Boris Johnson make 30-year-old the youngest peer in House of Lords?

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Lady Charlotte Owen is the most junior person that Boris Johnson nominated as a peer, according to official records.

A former adviser to Boris Johnson has become the youngest peer in the House of Lords, aged just 30.

Charlotte Owen was nominated to the Lords in the former prime minister’s controversial resignation honours list released in June. She will be known as Baroness Owen of Alderley Edge and will sit as a Conservative peer.

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Lady Owen is the youngest life peer announced that the House of Lords is aware of, with its records of peerages announced stretching back to 1958. But the Lords added its records show examples of hereditary peers who became members at a younger age than Lady Owen.

Senior figures in government have questioned Lady Owen's suitability for a peerage, saying she was a “staggeringly junior” aide and the appointment was "impossible to defend". However, others said the criticism smacked of sexism.

Boris Johnson nominated Charlotte Owen to the House of Lords, a 30-year-old former special adviser. Credit: GettyBoris Johnson nominated Charlotte Owen to the House of Lords, a 30-year-old former special adviser. Credit: Getty
Boris Johnson nominated Charlotte Owen to the House of Lords, a 30-year-old former special adviser. Credit: Getty | Getty

Who is Charlotte Owen?

Lady Owen was born in 1993 and grew up in affluent Alderley Edge in Cheshire, just outside Manchester, known as the Knightsbridge of the North. The Manchester Evening News reports that Owen went to school at Alderley Edge School for Girls, which currently charges £5,307 per term in fees.

Lady Owen’s biography issued by the House of Lords stated she graduated from the University of York in 2015 with a degree in politics and international relations. Her LinkedIn page does not list the grade she received.

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Charlotte Owen will become the youngest peer in British history (Pic:Getty)Charlotte Owen will become the youngest peer in British history (Pic:Getty)
Charlotte Owen will become the youngest peer in British history (Pic:Getty) | Getty

What is her political career?

According to Lady Owen's LinkedIn page, her political career started in 2011, when, aged 17 or 18, she says she was an intern at George Osborne's constituency office in Tatton, Cheshire, for a month. However this has been disputed.

Tortoise Media reported that a senior source, who worked in Osborne's office, said she didn't work for the former Chancellor or in his constituency office. Lady Owen says she was a intern in the Tatton Conservative Association office for a month in 2012, and also with Jacqueline Foster, the deputy leader of the Tory MEPs in Brussels, for a month in 2015.

In 2017, she interned at William Wragg MP's constituency office before being a Parliamentary intern for Boris Johnson for six months. The House of Lords confirmed she was then a Parliamentary assistant for Conservative MPs Alok Sharma, Johnson and Sir Jake Berry from 2017 until 2021.

Charlotte Owen becomes a Baroness. Credit: ParliamentCharlotte Owen becomes a Baroness. Credit: Parliament
Charlotte Owen becomes a Baroness. Credit: Parliament | Parliament

Then Lady Owen says on her LinkedIn that she worked as a special adviser at Number 10 Downing Street from February 2021. However, the Cabinet Office releases annual lists of special advisers as part of its transparency records, and Lady Owen is not listed in July 2021.

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She is first listed in July 2022, and this specifies that she spent half her time working in Number 10 and half her time working for the Chief Whip Chris Heaton Harris.

Heaton Harris confirmed this, saying: "She was an outstanding special adviser to me in my role as chief whip jointly with the prime minister. Nobody had their finger on the pulse of the parliamentary party like she did. The House of Lords is a place which needs to reflect the whole of society, and I know she will work hard and make an outstanding contribution."

However government sources have disputed Owen's influence in Downing Street, describing her as akin to an executive assistant. A staffer told the Times that they were aware of her, but she had been "very junior".

Others however praised her, saying she knew what made politicians tick and was a good link person between Number 10 and the 2019 intake of MPs. The Times also said she was turned down for a job with the House of Commons Deputy Speaker, Dame Eleanor Laing.

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She carried out working at Number 10 under Liz Truss, before leaving when Rishi Sunak became Prime Minister. On her official House of Lords profile, it states there is no "experience" or "focus area" information to show for Lady Owen.

Charlotte Owen (red dress) watches on as Boris Johnson gives his resignation speech outside Number 10. Credit: GettyCharlotte Owen (red dress) watches on as Boris Johnson gives his resignation speech outside Number 10. Credit: Getty
Charlotte Owen (red dress) watches on as Boris Johnson gives his resignation speech outside Number 10. Credit: Getty | Getty

Why did Boris Johnson choose her for the House of Lords?

Boris Johnson included a number of his former special advisors and Parliamentary assistants on his resignation honours list. It is seen as a reward for political service, although Johnson was criticised for the number of peers he nominated.

A cross-party Lords report last week said Johnson’s exit honours had “brought into question” the current appointments system for creating new peers.

A source close to Johnson, told the Guardian: "The former Prime Minister made nominations for peerages and honours in line with precedents. He believes that all those who were nominated were meritorious and will contribute to public service.”

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Lady Owen was the most junior of all the peers Johnson nominated, and one of the most junior people on the former PM's entire resignation honours list, according to official records of special advisers.

A list of government special advisers - who are political appointees and not civil servants - and their seniority and salaries are listed as part of the Cabinet Office transparency data.

There are four brackets of salaries:

  • Junior Special Adviser - £40,500 - £53,000
  • Special Adviser - £57,000 - £84,000
  • Senior Special Adviser - £73,000 - £102,000
  • Special Adviser Leadership - £102,000 - £145,000

Lady Owen - who is only listed in the July 2022 data - was listed in the second bracket "special adviser", with a salary of under £70,000 a year.

Also nominated for peerages, was Dan Rosenfield, Boris Johnson's chief of staff, who has worked in and out of government since 2000. He was listed in the special adviser leadership category.

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Ben Gascoigne was also given a peerage, who had worked for Johnson when he was Mayor of London and Foreign Secretary before becoming his Deputy Chief of Staff in Downing Street. He was also listed in the leadership category.

A government source told the Times: "No one who was working in the building at the time can understand why she is on the list. It is completely mad."

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