The 2020 honours list has been published. Here we are in Gong-Ho Land and I regret to inform you that yet again I have been overlooked. This omission doesn’t reflect well on The System. More on that later. I scanned the list of 1,000 plus names to see what it could tell me about current trends. Obviously a lot of charitable work has been recognised, and I thought I might see ‘services to food banks’ appearing somewhere—but sadly, not: it could be that some recipients’ brief descriptions of their charitable work simply didn’t mention the UK’s largest growth industry. Then I realised how mistaken I was, since the country’s greatest contributor to the growth of food banks was made a knight of the realm! Yes, arise Sir Iain Duncan Smith! (IDS for short—that is short for Irritable Defecation Syndrome.) His place in this list has naturally attracted some criticism, but in this world we mustn’t imagine that guilt is a concept that applies to anybody but ‘benefit scroungers.’ IDS is so blameless he could merge into a bank of estuarial mud without leaving so much as the trace of a worm. Or something like that.
My quick scan of the honours list suggests that if you’ve already got a gong, you’re in a better place to get another one, not least if you live in Greater London. Lower down the hierarchy of gongs you may stand a better chance if you live in the regions. The British Empire Medal is at the bottom of the heap. The BEM was discontinued for a while but was reintroduced by David Cameron in 2012. I reckon this move was designed as part of his ‘Big Society’ initiative, and indeed it could have been renamed the Big Society Medal (modernisation and all that). Sadly, this couldn’t happen because it may have been confused with BSM, that is, the British School of Motoring. Anybody passing their driving test may have become entitled to be known as Joe/Jane Bloggs, BSM.
The history of our glorious honours system is now mainly forgotten. Who now remembers singing ‘Lloyd George knew my father, father knew Lloyd George?’ I can remember just about anybody of my age back even in the sixties singing this refrain, never knowing what it meant, although I think there was some understanding that there was something fishy about it. Only a lot later, when I read the story of Maundy Gregory and the scandals relating to honours for sale in the 1920s and 1930s did I begin to understand how corrupt the entire system was, and remains. No time now for going over that territory, but the lessons are still relevant. The history of these honours, some of which Lloyd George introduced as a money making venture make their rejection now a matter of real honour. I was pleased to read on the Huff Post website an article about 37 ‘celebrities’ who had rejected honours, from Rudyard Kipling to John Cleese. As yet, nobody has been given an honour for 'services to celebrity' or for that matter ’influencing’ - but I guess it’s only a matter of time.
Well, as regards my own overlooked honour. I have spent fifty years and anything between £100,000 (low estimate) to maybe £200,000 (inflation adjusted) supporting the British drinks industry. I have unfailingly done my best to contribute whatever I could to ensure that no brewery, distillery or whatever went bust. Perhaps this sacrifice on my part has had its own rewards, I can’t remember. Anyway, the best thing about it is I will continue with this vital contribution to society as long as I can, and in the meantime I drink to all those whose lives have been enhanced by the chance of briefly meeting a royal (or a Lord Lieutenant) to receive their well-earned gong. I’m not sure which way round it will be in the case of Sir Elton John (CH). But the sashes! The ribbons! The bling!