As the New Year’s Honours list was revealed the complaints about the whole process came flooding forth. With a growing list of sceptics who transcend many diverse areas in our society, has the time come for a complete overhaul of our honours system or, as some seem to suggest, is there actually any real need for it any more?
The Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe might have led “an impressive array of policing talent” (Police Oracle) in the 2013 New Year Honours list but it still tends to be a little top rank heavy.
Bradley Wiggins, the Tour de France winner and Olympic gold medallist, may have “capped his incredible year with a Knighthood” but he, like some before him, said the title means little to him (see here).
More street sweepers and other so-called ‘normal people’ might be getting gongs nowadays, but the honours list still appears to perpetuate the social (aka wealth) divide in our nation. It also has a colourful history (see here). Despite the well-earned praise for the ‘normal people’ who get Britain ticking, the perennial honours debacle rumbles on prior to each investiture.
More lollipop ladies won’t save the honours system: Honours is a hierarchy of gifts that’s little more than a stroking mechanism for plutocrats and colleagues of Bruce Forsyth…(Tanya Gold – The Guardian)
That chequered history shows little sign of abatement as this year’s list includes an award to a tycoon previously jailed over a stock market scandal (see here). There may be a little more recognition for unsung heroes of the public sector but it has also been suggested; HM The Queen will be kept busy this year bestowing honours on politicians; as David Cameron seizes upon the opportunity to award more political gongs.
To some it is all monstrous or embarrassing. But most human societies seem to need an honours system, including revolutionary Russia, America and France, where Napoleon, no less, dreamed up that discreet red lapel ribbon known as the Légion d’honneur…(guardian.co.uk)
Like others over the years I have to admit, I’ve questioned the actual worth to our society of some of those who have had honours bestowed upon them.
If we’re going to have honours, they should surely reflect people’s social worth – not reward wealthy parasites…(Owen Jones)
Although I don’t often see eye-to-eye with many of Owen Jones’ political or social opinions, I would support his Pillars of Society idea. Rather than venerating the well-heeled and well-connected, it would do more to champion those people who work hard to make Britain a better place.
I’ve often wondered, how many of those who so vociferously condemn the system would actually refuse a gong if it were bestowed upon them? Last year, as the result of a freedom of information request, an interesting list of people who have actually turned down a Queen’s honour in the past was published (see here). Apparently more than 250 people turned down honours between 1951 and 1999.
I think that an Honours System is actually of value to any society, it’s how those honours are awarded that usually causes the problems. Perhaps one answer to mitigate against complaints for the current system would be for more people to have a go at nominating a recipient. We should recognise the outstanding contributions of individuals within our society however; ‘outstanding’ has many varied definitions and unfortunately, many of those definitions are usually dependent upon political, public relations considerations and financial implications.
Thankfully I can rest easy on the issues involved here. After all, my name wasn’t on the list and I’m never likely to experience the social morality quandary of gong acceptance!
- Knighthood for Bernard Hogan-Howe despite plebgate row (telegraph.co.uk)
- Honour for Met police chief Bernard Hogan-Howe sparks panic amid ‘Plebgate’ row (telegraph.co.uk)
- Met police chief branded ‘extremely foolish’ over handling of Plebgate to be knighted a year after taking up role (dailymail.co.uk)
- New Year Honours List 2013 in pictures (telegraph.co.uk)