George Osborne wanted to give David Beckham a peerage and make him sports minister, it has been revealed.
But it was rejected because of fears a ministerial post requiring the former England football captain having to stand up in Parliament and defend complicated sports policy would backfire.
If it had gone ahead, Beckham could have taken the title Baron Beckham of Leytonstone – the London suburb where he was born – or Baron Beckham of Old Trafford, the home ground of his former club Manchester United.
Former Chancellor George Osborne wanted to give David Beckham (pictured) a peerage and make him sports minister during a major Cabinet reshuffle in 2013, a former Tory spin doctor has revealed [File photo]
Beckham has acted as something of a sports ambassador for the UK, helping to secure the 2012 Olympics and working on the England’s unsuccessful bid for the 2018 World Cup. Pictured: Beckham (left) with Prince William (centre) and then-prime minister David Cameron (right) during a 2018 reception prior to the announcement of the venues for the 2018 and 2022 world cup
His wife Victoria would have become Baroness Beckham, although she would inevitably have been known as ‘Lady Posh’.
The couple’s four children – sons Brooklyn, Romeo and Cruz and daughter Harper – would have been entitled to use the courtesy title ‘The Honourable’, usually shortened to ‘The Hon’.
Mr Osborne wanted Beckham, 45, to succeed Sir Hugh Robertson, who was sports minister during the 2012 London Olympics.
Beckham helped the capital win the right to stage the Games and took part in the Opening Ceremony. Mr Osborne was a less popular visitor to the Olympic Stadium in 2012, saying he was ‘hurt’ when the Paralympics crowd booed him.
The bizarre ‘Baron Becks’ proposal was revealed by Mr Cameron’s former Downing Street director of communications, Sir Craig Oliver.
He told Laura Round, host of Big Tent podcast What Were You Thinking? that he was shocked when ‘a very senior minister’ suggested giving Beckham a seat in the Lords and a place in Mr Cameron’s ministerial team.
The discussion took place on October 7, five months after Beckham retired as a footballer – and when critics said Mr Cameron’s Tory-Lib Dem Coalition administration was running out of steam.
If the peerage had gone ahead, Beckham (centre) and his family would have been able to claim titles. Pictured, L-R: Romeo, Cruz, Harper, David, Brooklyn and Victoria Beckham
Sir Craig declined to name the ‘very senior minister’, but the Mail has been told by reliable Tory sources that it was Mr Osborne.
Sir Craig recalled: ‘I looked at him, thinking ‘What?!’ And he said, ‘Yes, wouldn’t it be great if David Beckham was put in the House of Lords and became sports minister?’
Former Tory spin doctor Sir Craig Owens said he vetoed Beckham as sports minister [File photo]
‘I said, ‘Hang on a minute, I’ve met Beckham a couple of times. Very nice guy, but I’m not sure if he’s cut out to stand at the despatch box in the House of Lords defending the Government’s sports policy, which can be complicated’.
‘It’s the morning of the reshuffle, do you seriously want me to ring up Beckham and say, ‘Hey, mate, fancy being sports minister?’ ‘
Sir Craig told Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne that it was a preposterous publicity stunt and would blow up in everyone’s face. ‘Everybody would ridicule us, and even if we got glorious coverage for it, we would end up repenting at our leisure for many, many months to come,’ he said.
Sir Craig said he ‘killed’ the plan, telling the PM and Mr Osborne: ‘We’re absolutely not doing it.’
In the end, the sports minister post was given to Helen Grant, a former judo champion and the Tories’ first black female MP.
It later emerged that Beckham was on the verge of getting a knighthood in the 2014 New Year’s Honours list until a secret ‘red flag’ warning from HMRC sunk his nomination. His involvement in an alleged tax avoidance scheme had scuppered his hopes.
Osborne (centre) is pictured with Beckham (right) and British actress Rosamund Pike (left) at The Fashion Awards in London in 2018 [File photo]
Leaked emails in 2017 revealed that when he found out he had been passed over, Beckham denounced members of the honours scrutiny committee as ‘a bunch of c***s’ who were ‘unappreciative’ of his status as a national treasure.
He branded the honours system ‘a f***ing joke’.
Friends of Beckham said the former footballer had spoken in the ‘heat of the moment’.
David and Victoria Beckham have both been awarded OBEs.
The podcast can be listened to in full at bigtent.org.uk/wwyt-episode-thirteen