Honours system is rotten. Reform it

Abolish all imperial and feudal titles, reward sacrifice & bravery


London, UK – 1 January 2011

Peter Tatchell, Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation, writes:

The New Year Honours list, announced today, is rotten through and through. Many awards are the result of cronyism. The elite rewards the elite, with the rich and powerful giving honours to the rich and powerful. They often know each other and nominate each other. This is tantamount to nepotism and corruption.

Local heroes and community volunteers get the low order honours, such as MBEs. Establishment toadies receive the highest awards, the knighthoods.

Most of the top honours go to business, military, diplomatic and civil service big-wigs, not to selfless, unpaid charity workers.

Why should people who get paid mega salaries get honours for doing their job? The bosses of BA and British Gas were among the wealthy establishment figures who got knighthoods. They deserve no honours.

Roger Carr is the head of Centrica, which owns British Gas. His salary is £450,000 a year. He received a knighthood, despite putting up gas prices by 7% at a time when profits are expected to rise by 100% to around £700 million. He is, in effect, being rewarded for profit increases on the backs of low-income families, causing many of them great hardship. Previously, he oversaw the sell-off of Cadbury’s to the US food giant Kraft. He gets a British honour for an anti-British economic decision, which will see job losses in the UK. His knighthood is typical of the way the honours system is so often tainted.

There are also unjustified honours this year for nonentity timeservers and flunkeys like Queen’s pastry chef and gardener, the lady-in-waiting to Duchess of Gloucester and the Lord Lieutenants of Nottinghamshire and Lancashire. For all I know, they may be lovely people but they have done nothing exceptional. Giving them honours is an insult to the many ordinary people who have made great personal sacrifices to help uplift their local communities and support good causes. It looks like favouritism and brings the honours system into disrepute.

Knighthoods and Damehoods? Our honours system is a medieval farce. We should scrap these feudal titles. They are absurd and ridiculous, like something out of a musical hall pantomime.

Order of the British Empire? Hello! The British Empire is long gone. When it existed, hundreds of millions of people in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Pacific were colonised by Britain, ruled against their will, exploited as cheap labour and their lands were stripped of natural resources. This is not something to be proud of, let alone to commemorate with MBEs, OBEs and CBEs.

It is time to abolish the current honours system. Reform and rename it.

Limit awards to people who show great bravery and who do decades of unpaid volunteer and charity work.