Thursday, 2 February 2012

Honours: a discredited system

The decision to strip Fred Goodwin of his knighthood for his monumental incompetence, and obscene rewards for his failure as a banker, sets an interesting, and hopefully, useful precedent.

Are we now going to see campaigns for the removal of honours from others who've proved themselves unworthy? If so, what are to be the criteria? Clearly, perjury, fraud, and other forms of criminality have not been considered serious enough to warrant the removal of an undeserved honour.

So, if incompetence, avarice and stupidity are to be the new benchmarks for the confiscation of honours, then the House of Lords is going to become very depopulated indeed. Many, may think this not altogether a bad thing, and I'm sure we'd all be able to suggest a large list of lords for the chop.

Of course historically, we've never been deterred from giving knighthoods, dukedoms and even principalities to the less than virtuous. In medieval times, to be an unprincipled brigand was frequently a required condition for ennoblement. I'm sure that knights of yore didn't have to worry too much about the opinions of the common herd.

Not so today however. In the present climate of complete intolerance for any transgression by a public figure, there is scarcely anyone truly deserving of an honour. For who can honestly claim a totally innocent and untainted past? Given this fact, we would be advised to permanently change the rules for the awarding of all honours.

I would like to suggest the perfect solution. In future, all honours should only be awarded postumously. This would put the candidates in a similar position to saints. We should allow a decent length of time to elapse between death and reward, say one hundred years, so that each individual's life could be exhaustively scrutinised to ensure there were no skeletons in any cupboards likely to rattle and embarrass the recipient.

It would also possess the added advantage of filling the House of Lords with the long departed. This would improve both the levels of debate and their lordship's legislative competence. Lord Bishops should be particularly keen on this, as it would remove the temptation to store up earthly riches for themselves and make their admittance to heaven more certain.

All in all, postumous awards would solve an awful lot of our current difficulties. 'Cash for honours' would become 'ash for honours,' since that's all potential recipients would have to offer. Plus we could sell off the House of Lords to help with the deficit and hold all future sessions of the Upper House in a cemetery.

A win win for everyone I think.

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