Felicity Bushmill writes from London: The twice a year British crap game, The Honours, has been announced.
In craps a first throw of dice showing eleven or seven wins. Odd figures but the Queen’s Honours are about as unlikely and as loaded as the real thing.
Because this New Year’s Honours and then six months on, the Queen’s Birthday Honours, is when the Queen (really the government) hands out grubby bling things like knighthoods, damehoods, varying Orders of an Empire that no longer exists and medals, crosses and Companionships to time servers and pushy public servants and celebrity figures.
This latest list leans heavily on the impressive sporting success of Team GB in the London Olympics. Great people in their fields, but why be on this list? It’s about as nonsensical as the autobiographies that have appeared about athletic heroes and heroines most of whom are barely in their 20s and have hardly a story to tell other than that they won, or came close.
And don’t forget, they’ve had the highest medals of all – the Olympic medallions hanging round their collective neck. Back in the summer they were given, and rightly so, exactly what they deserved – golds at the top because they were the tops, bronze at the bottom because they weren’t even close.
With those medals came: honour after honour, book deals, personal appearances, more sponsorship and none of them has to run, jump, sail or cycle ever again. Justly rewarded.
But why knighthoods and the rest?
Sir Wiggo? Doesn’t sound right. Brilliant guy. I paid full price for his book (although appallingly ghosted) and think he’s a bit of a hero. But he’s a sporting hero enough and Sir is almost insulting because what he achieved in France as well as London and what he achieved before 2012, is what he does. A tinsel dubbing turns something he worked hard for into a pantomime.
Look at the list and the big names that do not do much more than play on their names and position are unsurprisingly there. Tapped into the system through friends (or debtors) in pretty high places.
There is, or should be, among impartial observers a sense of the sickening. Could for example, anyone do anything but spit in the gutter when it is announced that Cherie Blair is given a CBE for her charity work and wimmin’s issues – whatever they are?
Her name was discredited when she scrubbed and kept house for her husband in Downing Street. Has there ever been in recent times a more unpopular wife of a Prime Minister? In the Inns of Court, her name is rarely mentioned in any flattering manner. She will probably look to be Dame Cherie and when she is, that will simply go further to discredit the whole system.
But we should not stop with Mrs Blair. It would be throat gurglingly simple to cough another goblet into another gutter with the news that a Cherie look-alike bauble and ribbon from the CBE tray has been handed to the seemingly talentless Tracy Emin – the same Tracy who cannot by any standard draw anything other than a squiggle but has been created Professor of Drawing at the Royal Academy.
And so it goes on. Did Margaret Becket have to be a dame? No of course not. Nice lady, but there are many as nice and many equally worthy of so much – it would simply be her turn. What about the very good policeman, Bernard Hogan-Howe? He has received the handout knighthood for being commissioner of the Metropolitan Police; but might he give it back if he has to resign because of the Plod-Gate affair?
What about Dame Ursula Brennan? She was universally called a total waste of time when she was Permanent Secretary at the Defence Ministry – even her fellow MOD colleagues recognised it. It goes on like that.
Some awards have gone to worthies and it’s a little churlish to deny nice people nice things. I’m truly pleased that if there has to be a throw-up system, then the very good and worthy Wendy White has got something for netball in Wales.
And who could deny the knighthood for Quentin Blake the artist who taught so brilliantly at the Royal College as well as his body of work. Good man, good teacher, good and great in the autumn of his life. Maybe that’s it: handouts should come towards the end – for long service even for not being found out like the standard names on the list of diplomats sent from Whitehall to embassies to lie for their country. Michael and George awards come with every diplomatic bag. (Did I see Jeremy Paxman’s brother in that list? I believed I did).
Like most institutions in the United Kingdom, the New Year’s and Birthday Honours are discredited. Moreover, it is not simply a matter of sour grapes from among those overlooked. Some might also remember that this is the same system that honoured Sir James Wilson Vincent Savile OBE – twice.