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Friday, 22 August 2014

Honours system needs an overhaul

A GOVERNMENT report published this week has suggested that the current honours system needs reforming.

Louise Allonby
Louise Allonby

Specifically, the report calls for an end for honours for businessmen who don’t give their time or money to charity. They should not, it argues, be rewarded simply for doing their jobs and being successful.

Quite why the report singles out businessmen (who do, after all, produce capital and provide jobs) wasn’t clear. I can think of many far less deserving groups of people – such as politicians - who routinely, effortlessly and sometimes entirely undeservedly, receive honours exclusively for doing their jobs, and often not particularly well.

If we’re going to deprive businessmen of honours, then some public servants should also be included in the overhaul. MPs, Whitehall mandarins and civil servants seem to waltz on to the honours lists as if of right, having already enjoyed careers with fat salaries and generous pensions attached. Why should they get honours as well?

At the same time, people who really deserve to be honoured by a grateful nation are all too often side-lined or at best given low-ranking honours.

Watching this year’s Festival of Remembrance, it was impossible not to be moved by the sight of the last remaining members of RAF Bomber Command filing into the hall, applauded to the rafters for their heroism during World War II.

One of them, who had flown over 25 missions, risking death each time, was interviewed. He was modest, courageous and had a strong sense of duty. He epitomised everything that is great about Britain. Over 55,000 of his comrades never returned from their missions.

For his selfless bravery he had been awarded an MBE: the lowest of the British Empire ranks.

Next up came Rod Stewart: considered by many (myself excluded) to be a talented pop singer. He’s famous for his gravelly voice, his libido and for crying like a baby when Celtic beat Barcelona 2-1 earlier this month.

Mr Stewart holds the CBE: two up the rankings from the MBE held by the ex-RAF Bomber Command pilot. Sir Mick Jagger, Sir Elton John and Sir Paul McCartney are two levels higher, with their KCBEs.

If that doesn’t illustrate everything that is wrong with our honours system, I’d very much like to know what does.

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