THERESA May is facing claims of having “doled out political favours” and rewarding “services to the establishment” in the New Year Honours.

The criticism came as key Tory powerbroker Graham Brady, regarded as the voice of the party’s back benches at Westminster, was awarded a knighthood.

As chairman of the 1922 Committee, he is listened to closely by the leadership and would play a crucial role in any future leadership contest, which would be triggered if 15 per cent of the party’s MPs – 48 at present – wrote to him requesting one. Two other members of the 1922 Committee executive are also honoured, with vice-chairwoman Cheryl Gillan being made a dame while treasurer Geoffrey Clifton-Brown is knighted.

READ MORE: Knighthood for Scots political expert Professor John Curtice

All three backed Leave in the European Union referendum, as did a fourth Conservative MP to be honoured, veteran former minister Christopher Chope who receives a knighthood.

SNP Cabinet Office spokesman Tommy Sheppard said public honours should recognise the “remarkable efforts and achievements” of people in communities which advance society. He said: “There are many this year who can be rightly proud of the recognition their honour gives to their works.

“However, they should not be doled out as political favours. Sadly, successive Westminster governments have risked demeaning the system by making obvious political appointments.”

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Jo Swinson – re-elected as a MP just six months ago – was also named in the list, receiving a CBE.

The 37-year-old made her political comeback in June, retaking the East Dunbartonshire constituency she had first won in 2005.

Pete Wishart, the SNP MP, criticised the announcement, which came days it was revealed that former LibDem party leader Nick Clegg would receive a knighthood

Wishart said: “No honours list would be complete without a Lib-Dem securing yet another gong.

“These Liberals covet these gongs as much as an over enthusiastic Hogmanay reveller craves a new year day hang over cure. I’m pretty certain that part of the deal when elected as a Liberal MP is the certainty there will be a peerage, knighthood or other gong guaranteed, with electoral failure no impediment to honours success.

“The Liberals need to have a good look at themselves and observe the embarrassing, shameless establishment toadies that they have become.

“With more than 100 lords and their ‘Sir Lose-alot’ knights, the Liberal Democrats are the most celebrated and apparently ‘successful’ establishment party this country has ever had to endure.

“The honours system is a weird, anachronistic throwback to the days of empire and deference.

“It has been debased by awards to cronies and political donors, and as political favours. It is time it was scrapped and replaced with a 21st-century model of rewarding real success and service.”

Swinson was just 25 and the Baby of the House – the name given to the youngest MP – when she was first elected, taking the seat from Labour in a surprise result.

After the Liberal Democrats went into coalition with the Conservatives she became part of the government, serving as employment relations and consumer affairs minister and equalities minister, using the latter role to bring in shared parental leave.

Swinson lost her seat in the 2015 election, as voters turned against the LibDems, and Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP won all but three of the Scottish seats at Westminster.

When Theresa May called this year’s snap election, Swinson saw a chance to return to the House of Commons, and stood again in East Dunbartonshire, winning the seat back for her party.

She was seen as a leadership contender when Tim Farron resigned as the LibDems’ leader, but announced instead that she would put herself forward for the position of deputy leader – a role that she won unopposed.

After learning of her CBE, Swinson said: “I’m delighted that my work has been recognised in this way. It wouldn’t be possible without the support of my constituents, whom I’d like to thank for giving me the opportunity to serve as their MP once more.

“It is an honour to be listed among so many remarkable people from all walks of life, making amazing contributions right across our country.”