Saturday, December 29, 2007

Arise Sir Iain Duncan Smith!

The New Year's Honours List is no fun anymore. Don't get me wrong, I thoroughly approve of the inclusion of normal people in the list, but I do feel it is being devalued by the celebrities who are nowadays awarded gongs. I don't need to name names because it is obvious to everyone. If honours are awarded for excellence in their fields, why are politicians more or less excluded nowadays?

Can it really be that England World Cup losing manager Brian Ashton is more deserving of an MBE than, say, Frank Field for his work in the area of welfare reform? Isn't IDS's work on social justice just as important as sitting in a TV studio asking questions as Sir Michael Parkinson does - or, more accurately, did?

Honours should be awarded for excellence, above and beyond the call of duty. They should never be awarded for purely 'doing your job'. That happens far too often in the case of civil servants. As Dizzy points out today, it is simply ludicrous to award Tom Kelly (Blair's official spokesman) the Order of the Bath or to give anyone from the Home Office an award. It devalues the honours awarded to really deserving people.


Anonymous said...

Most of the honours system has basically been a pat on the back for retiring civil servants over many many years - this includes Kelly, who was not a Labour party apparatchik, and could also include Tory administration spokesmen such as Ingham.

If you subscribe to the view that honouring civil servants is appropriate, then a gong for decades of service to the nation (rather than to personal or commercial profit) is perhaps more relevant than a few years of (politically induced) administrative hiccups at the Home Office. If one takes the view that the Home Office civil servants should not be honoured because of professional incompetence, it is frankly ludicrous to argue that IDS should get a gong instead! Outside some corners of the Conservative party who are keen to airbrush his leadership out of the history books, I doubt that there are many people either on the street or in the third sector who would clamour for an honour for him

The subtext of the Honours List this year is that Brown, unlike Blair, has not created any political honours and we are led to understand this may well continue in future. It may be argued that Blair's record on cash for honours made the situation untenable, but it should also be acknowledged that this is a positive move from Brown.

Personally I have no problem at all with Parkinson getting a knighthood - and think that Des Lynam should have been honoured years ago.

John M Ward said...

Remember that a lot of these awards are politically-motivated (and nominated), others are what are known in the Civil Service as "rations" -- i.e. they are automatic for some, and almost so for others -- and the celebrity awards have been around for many years now.

Your points stand, and IDS has indeed done some really good work in a vitally important area. Perhaps that will be recognised next time round -- I hope so.

Meanwhile, we have to accept that this honours system continues to be largely a circus, with the recent history of cash-for-peerages as part of the backdrop against which we have to view these matters.

In the final analysis, it is the honours system that has been devalued as a result of politicising and popularising (via celebs) so many of the awards being made nowadays.

Far better to more-or-less ignore the whole thing and apply our own judgment to the value of individuals and their work and achievements. It's what I did several years ago, and have never regretted doing so. I trust my judgment (for all its undoubted faults!) much more than I trust those who agree these formal honours.

Anonymous said...

The honours for Tom Kelly (who bad-mouted Dr David Kelly) and Richard Summersgill (whose Department lost 25 million records) are a disgrace.

The honours awarded to celebrities for services to their own careers are merely distasteful.

Anonymous said...

But IDS, as a politician is just doing his job. What's your point caller?

Anonymous said...

All past party leaders should be given an honour. There is quite a bit of catching up to be done:-
Iain Duncan-Smith, William Hague, Michael Howard, Ming Campbell, Charles Kennedy and Tony Blair.

Ian Paisley was most deserving this year - no doubt his other chuckle brother would have turned it down, but that does not mean Paisley's contribution should not be recognised.

Anonymous said...

Trumpeter - "The honours awarded to celebrities for services to their own careers are merely distasteful."

Quite. What service has Michael Parkinson and his ilk performed to the nation?

I think the rot started with knighting stage actors, which in itself was not a bad idea because they did raise Britain's prestige in the field of drama. I think perhaps the problem began when some knighted stage actors started appearing in movies, so people got the idea that actors in general was a good idea. Then from the movies, it descended even further into television. Next, it'll be going to tube buskers and pavement artists.

I think sport got similarly degraded. Some of the great cricketers certainly raised Britain's prestige on the pitch. Now you have football players who are traded around among countries and have no identification with Britain.

Anonymous said...

Honours have always been so. IDS can get his knighthood/peerage when/if Cameron becomes PM - In the meantime we can all indulge in a good old whinge later in 2008 when The Rt Hon Anthony Charles Lynton Blair P.C. is transmogrified into The Rt Hon, "Sir" Anthony Charles Lynton Blair, KG,PC and no doubt in the fullness of time when he becomes The Rt Hon, Baron Blair of Basra. It'll add a few more "bucks" to his retirement fund. The "Yanks" just love a title.

P.S. AND when IS he going to collect his Congressional Medal? Or has he done it and forgot to tell us ?

Anonymous said...

The whole thing has no value anymore after the ermine for vermin affair I just think "how much did he pay for that" regardless of the official reason.

Anonymous said...

God, I hate Tony Blair.

scotch said...

"no fun anymore": yet you're going to post on it.
"Nowadays" twice in one paragraph. "normal people" stood up for, well good for you.
"don't need to name names" yet later you do so, four times.
"more or less excluded" : unprovable vague tattle.

Anonymous said...

The worlds of showbusiness and politics do sometimes overlap.

My brother stumped me with this over the Christmas period; your readers are more intelligent than me and will probably get it quite easily.

Which famous actor, now deceased, was the brother-in-law of a Conservative Lord Chancellor and the brother-in-law of a Labour Minister? Also, one of his wives was the daughter of a Labour MP, who was later President of the Liberal Party. There is another political connection but if I were to give that clue you would probably get it quite easily.

Unsworth said...

@ Inamicus

"....Kelly, who was not a Labour party apparatchik".

Definition of Kelly's role and function then? By his actions so we know him. It was patent from his many utterances that he acted as a mouthpiece for political response to political criticism. Just read over his multitudinous and often completely contradictory statements to the press during the course of his work.

"The subtext of the Honours List this year is that Brown, unlike Blair, has not created any political honours and we are led to understand this may well continue in future".

And this is a Government which has constantly sought to 'lead us to understand' a plethora of outright lies and deliberate deceptions.

Credibility? Zero.

Anonymous said...

It is better than some murder of the poor or slaver dealer getting knighted.
I suppose a respected and great talk show host getting knigted is a disgrace in tory land. While a murdering slave trader being put in house as used to happen in the 19 c is OK. I say well done to the government knighting one of the most respected broadcaster of all time.

Devil's Kitchen said...

You're just sore because James Blunt didn't get an OBE... ;-)


Vienna Woods said...

The honours system as it stands is quite demotivating for some of our foreign office staff serving overseas. In the not too distant past I came to know some embassy staff that had served in some "difficult" places, yet they are rarely honoured for their dedicated and dangerous work. At the same time I have been aware of honours handed out to locally employed foreigners in safe locations, merely for working X number of years.

Anonymous said...

Is my memory fading badly or did I once read a Parkinson article against 'honours' Lets face it he is a champagne socialist.. a Barnsley Boy as he never lets us forget! although it would be interesting to ascertain if he has done anything FOR Barnsley?

Now the clamour for Bruce Forsyth to be Knighted God forbid. The man is a failed song and dance man!

Stan Laurel never got anything.

But having said that IF it is distasteful for comedians etc to get a gong for just their careers, then WHY should Civil Servants and Politicians get anything?

Armed Services/Nurses Doctors/Ambulance and Fire Personnel and Poliuce Officers and people who do something for others and the Nation should.

Politicians should have a separate award.

Anonymous said...

Iain, you just earnt yourself the Order of the Brown Nose.

IDS's work on social justice is muddled, inexpert, and fogeyish - it just so happens that he has a larger megaphone than the real heavyweights in social policy. To suggest he deserves a serious honour for producing extended position statements for the Conservative Party is laughable sycophancy.

I thought the whole point of blogging was to escape the echo chamber of parties and press, and provide an independent voice?

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more with what Trumpeter Lanfield has to say.
What a load of nonsense it all is!
It means nothing to me, if anyone else takes it seriously then that is their own fault.
Don't know why you even feel it worthy of an article Iain.

copydude said...

Bruce Forsyth didn't get a gong because he honoured Vince Cable with Alesha.

Anonymous said...

IDS - He has not really done much work beyond his role in the Tory Party - which was a sop to him after being kicked out as leader - a job he did badly.

Anonymous said...

Honours for sportsmen were devalued when Paul Collingwood got an MBE for playing one match against Australia, scoring all of 17 runs. Shane Warne loved giving him stick about that in the next Ashes series.
Why do civil servants deserve any honour? Whitehall bureaucrats don't make any kind of sacrifice any more. They are as well paid as in the private sector, if not better. They enjoy gold-plated pensions at our expense while our own company schemes are closed down, unable to bear the burden of tax from this Government, and seemingly have a job for life somewhere in the machine no matter how incompetent they are. Isn't that enough?

Johnny Norfolk said...

I think all of this is outdated. I would never refer to someone by their title.

It all needs a complete rethink.

Anonymous said...

I'd rather they'd knighted Emu.

Anonymous said...

matthew is right: you are kissing IDS's arse a serious amount here, Iain.

I can't remember an active front bench MP getting a gong for "public service" (which is what civil servants get them for). The likes of Archy Kirkwood and Nick Winterton get them for "services to Parliament" which, if you're going to have an honours system at all, is probably fair enough.

What also really gets my goat is the leaking of certain honours, possibly by the celebs themselves (Arise Sirs Ian Botham and Michael Parkinson!) or -- equally likely -- by No 10.

If I were Buckingham Palace, I would decree that anyone's honour which is leaked before the announcement be immediately revoked.

Philipa said...

I agree with your general point but not your point about IDS, that I disagree with completely.

Of course celebrities seem to get honours for being famous and succesful, which makes the scheme redundant, but on the subject of normal people they do include people who are honoured for staying in the same job for a long time. It seems we are rewarding people for having no ambition. Those who change employers may do just as good a job and be just as worthy for exactly the same amount of time but their efforts will not be recognised.

Stephen said...

no 2-1 post yet?!!

Newmania said...

IDS's work on social justice is muddled, inexpert, and fogeyish

It looks impressive to me and since the 'experts' have provided the scaffolding for disaster across a spectrum of social Policy I `m not sure they have any more right to squeak than the experts in architecture of the 1960s.
I look forward to a range of "experts " magically advising Gordon Brown to do what he wanted to in the first place as the expert reviews come to the conclusions they are instructed to. Amongst ‘experts’ that have been wrong educational experts deserve a special gong. The order of the self serving weasel ?

Experts on climate change have consistently misrepresented their case and what about experts in Women’s Rights . Are they likely to expertly conclude their expertise is a sham and a waste of time more akin to a Dark ages Priestly rite than empirical observation.

In my expert opinion they are not and the tiresome practice of the left of pretending that certain of their constituency are above the fray is long last its sell by date . Polly Toynbee has little difficulty finding academics to agree with her bizarre and dated religion because they are mostly the acolytes of it . Neither was it hard for the US tobacco industry to accumulate evidence against the link between tobacco and cancer .

PS What about Brucie , no K? What does he have to do?

Anonymous said...

@ inamicus:-

decades of service to the nation

You make it sound like they didn't have unsackable jobs, fat salaries and gold-plated pensions for all those decades. "Service"? They're unemployable.

Paddy Briggs said...

Kylie or IDS - mmmmm tough choice. Think that I'd give Kylie the edge...

Anonymous said...

PS What about Brucie , no K? What does he have to do?

Vote Labour!

Anonymous said...

Well, I am certain Graham Norton votes Labour, so we can expect to see Dame Graham Norton curtseying to Her Maj some time before Gordon & The Gargoyles lose the next election.

Anonymous said...

The honours system has become like the Nobel prize. If Al Gore can get one, why didn't Harold Shipman?

M. Hristov said...

Charlotte Corday. The actor is Sir Rex Harrison.

“Carpet Honours“. Those that are ‘handed out with the rations’ were supposed to have been abolished by John Major but it often seems that they are creeping back.

I am sure that Tony Blair will eventually be made a Knight of The Order of the Garter or a Knight of The Order of the Thistle. Both these honours are in the personal gift of H.M. The Queen. He will also be made a life peer, if he should so wish. Sir David Steel (Lord Steel of Aikwood) is a Knight of The Order of The Thistle, as is Sir George Robertson (Lord Robertson of Port Ellen), the former Labour Defence Minister.

I have always thought that the traditional Foreign Office and colonial honours would be more appropriate for Mr Blair. This is the Order of St. Michael and St. George. Divided into C.M.G. (Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George), K.C.M.G. (Knight Commander of The Order of St. Michael and St. George) and G.C.M.G. (Knight Grand Cross of The Order of St. Michael and St. George). Disrespectful people referred to the recipients as follows. C.M.G. was "Call Me God". K.C.M.G. was "King Calls Me God" and G.C.M.G. was "God Calls Me God".

Needless to say, Lord Ashdown is a G.C.M.G.

Blair has a very high opinion of himself (not shared by me or many of the bloggers here) and so would be an ideal candidate for the G.C.M.G.

NB. The "Carpet Knighthood" for former Prime Ministers tends to be The Order of The Garter. Sir John Major banned "Carpet Honours" but somehow forgot to refuse The Order of The Garter for himself.

Don't worry about IDS ,Iain, he will get a life peerage, as all leaders of major parties get offered one (provided they are still around when IDS retires).

Madasafish said...

I'm sorry but anyone who believes in the Honours System - or has done for the last 50 years - is living in cloud cuckoo land.

Remember H Wilson's peerages? etc.

Jobs for the boys..

And since when has IDS actually achieved anything but write a report? (not that achievement is a qualification of course).

Or Frank Fields for that matter?

Politicians think they are important. Much of the rest of the country has a different opinion:-)

Anonymous said...

m.hristov. You are correct. The extra clue I didn't give was that Rex Harrison's ex, Elizabeth Harris, is now married to Jonathan Aitken.

Back on topic, I've mixed views on honours. On one hand, they encourage political toadying (people reluctant to speak out for fear of losing a gong). On the other, I've known people who have worked selflessly for the community who experienced real joy in being honoured.

Anonymous said...

My problem with the Honours System (leaving out cash-for-peerages) is that it is extremely "rank-conscious", in that the highest honours are reserved for those who have done very well for themselves already.

If you've managed to become rich and famous in your field, you'll get a knighthood, and if you've worked away solidly and done just as good a job - but aren't very famous or rich - you might get an MBE, OBE or CBE.

Don't care about Michael Parkinson one way or another, but why should he be knighted for doing the job he's been handsomely paid for all these years? Why should he be knighted and Leslie Phillips - 83, worked away diligently all these years and a very fine actor, but not, of course, a chat show host on TV every week, get a CBE?

All this stuff about the "People's Honours" - you can recommend people who've done fantastic sterling unpaid work in their communities for years all you like, and they'll still be awarded (if anything) an MBE etc, certainly no knighthood is going to come their way.

People shouldn't be honoured for doing the jobs they have been well paid for in the first place. Honours should be for something extra, and not "come up with the rations" if you work for the Civil Service.

Anonymous said...

@ Jafo:

People shouldn't be honoured for doing the jobs they have been well paid for in the first place. Honours should be for something extra, and not "come up with the rations" if you work for the Civil Service.


IDS should never get anything IMHO. He was one of the buggers destabilising Major in 1992-1997. Major ran a moral and competent government and the shenanigans of IDS and his ilk made it not just easier but actually even possible for Labour to lie about Major's effectiveness, to get away with it, and to get into power and do 13 years' worth of appalling damage.

He is Ted Heath with an even worse election record.

Anonymous said...

"If honours are awarded for excellence in their fields, why are politicians more or less excluded nowadays? "

I think you just answered your own question.

Unless you really want to explicitly honour people for excellence at being mendacious, treacherous, principleless, power-hungry little toerags.