Rank dishonour

January 11, 2024 09:29
Photo: UK Government

‘Virtue is the fount whence honour springs’

The New Year Honours List coupled with Boris Johnson and Liz Truss’s resignation honours Lists makes it timely to consider the British system of recognizing the contribution that individuals have made to the community.

Many countries have comparable systems, though the British have protracted, at least in terminology, a scheme that owes its origins to service to the monarch and a chivalric code.

In theory, being ennobled as a peer or created a knight or a dame, is to recognize outstanding service rendered to one’s countrymen and women.

One could write doctoral theses on the subject of whether it is consistent with the concept of an honours system to elevate in rank successful pop stars, sports people, actors, musicians and suchlike famous individuals who have already achieved fame. So, I shall not go there.

The focus of interest has to be on politicians and those who contribute, financially, to their advancement.

There appears to be a rough rule of thumb, dating back to Lloyd George, that rewards donors with a title commensurate with the amount of their contribution to political parties or an individual politician. I don’t think I am alone in finding this disgusting.

I sympathise with those members of the House of Lords who got there because of their genuine work on behalf of society and continue to do so.

But the peerages doled out to the cronies of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss and their ilk have debased the currency out of all recognition.

Once upon a time, a knighthood or a damehood for a lady, had meaning, reflecting Marlowe’s concept of the recognition of virtue.

Alas, knighting that prehistoric barnacle on the body politic, Jacob Rees-Mogg, deprives the chivalric order of any semblance of integrity.

Asking Princess Anne to dub him was inspired. Who amongst the Royal Family is more familiar with horse shit? From the angle of the blade to Mogg’s neck, it appeared as though she was about to decapitate him. My instinctive reaction was “Go, girl, go!”

There is no way that one can or should even contemplate equating these charlatans with the unsung heroes likes Rizwan Javed, the railwayman who talked down 29 potential suicides or Tony Hudgell, the 9 year old boy awarded the BEM for his services to prevention of child abuse.

Theirs is true virtue, writ large.

I have not done an analysis of the honours bestowed in the various resignation lists of Prime Ministers over a lengthy period of time, but even a cursory examination of the Johnson and Truss Lists confirms one’s worst fears.

All seven of the peerages nominated by Johnson were to active conservative politicians and, of course he ennobled the benighted Sir Jacob, and compensated Priti Patel with Commander of the British Empire, this to a politician whose concept of the Empire seemingly, is a place to park unwanted refugees.

Truss, who only held office for 49 disastrous days, nevertheless insisted on a resignation Honours list, what one might describe collectively as a trussery, comprised of no less than 11 appointments, chiefly, of her close political chums.

But, as if to compound the lunacy of her suicidal premiership, at a time when it is virtually universally agreed that Brexit has proved to be a monumental disaster for Britain, two of the peerages go to the Chair and CEO of the Leave Campaign.

Just when you think that the resignation Lists cap the summit of venal vice, the New Year’s Honours List throws up further exemplars of ill-gotten fame: none other than a knighthood for that neanderthal political tortoise Ian Duncan Smith, and Priti Patel becomes this season’s pantomime Dame.

True, in a field that includes deep-rooted fascistic reactionaries like Suella Braverman, Robert Jenrick and Mark Francois, it could be difficult to select a standard bearer for what George Orwell christened the ‘Blimps’, but the Conservative party having abandoned its moral compass, perhaps there is yet room for that arch bladder-blower, Nigel Farage.

From a historical perspective, the Anglo-Saxon Eoldormen and Thegns, the Norman Dukes and Knights, held those titles by virtue of service rendered to the King either by themselves or their forbears, usually by bearing arms.

It is no coincidence that the concept of virtuous service is embedded in the Arthurian legends epitomized by the knights of Pendragon’s Round Table.

That virtuous chivalry should be replaced by sordid mendacity and be traded in like commodities, or ladies’ lingerie à la Lady Mone, probably explains why almost no-one of principle wants to be involved in politics at parliamentary level.

Rishi Sunak promised transparency and honest dealing but his actions belie his words.

Let the last word go to Dr. Samuel Johnson:
“But if he does really think that there is no distinction between virtue and vice, why, Sir, when he leaves our houses, let us count our spoons.”


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