In principle I am wholly in favour of an Honours system. If properly used it provides an excellent way of marking out those who have performed above and beyond the call of duty at every level of our society. It is when it is used for purposes that are clearly at odds with the concept of meritocracy that I jib.

Take the Honours list just published. What, precisely, has Michael Parkinson done “above and beyond the call of duty”? What exactly is the nature of the ‘services to broadcasting’ he has performed? After all he is no Jeremy Isaacs or David Attenborough.From the sofa whereon I sit I confess to seeing no great merit in his being awarded a Knighthood. His principle claim to fame has been his long-running chat show which has subsisted for thirty-six years or so, but he was not the creator of the format which had long existed in the USA so he cannot be credited with any sort of innovation.

It is not as if he has been at the forefront of innovation, save for the ill-fated TV-am which turkeyed spectacularly. His show has for many years been a predictable procession of his drinking chums, especially when they had a book or a film to puff, or of ‘B’ and ‘C’ list celebrities (also with books or films to talk about). Most of his interviews lacked the sort of spontaneity he once had: he was forever looking down at his notes to see what the next question should be.

I watched a clip recently from the 1970s where he let the late Kenneth Williams loose with a couple of other guests and never said a word himself: now that was fascinating as Williams was allowed to reveal far more of himself than the more modern style of carefully staged interview would ever have done.

His other claim to fame was Desert Island Discs where he followed its creator, Roy Plomley. Again, he turkeyed and left after having turned an excellent format into the anodyne, with yet another heavy serving of his drinking chums.

Services to broadcasting? I think not.

Then there is someone like Tom Kelly, once Tony Blair’s spokesman and thus part of the culture which has done more to debauch trust in politics and politician than almost anything else in the last thirteen years. One notices that no basis is advanced for his elevation to be a Companion of the Bath: this is unsurprising. He, of course, was the individual who trashed the reputation of his namesake, the late Dr. David Kelly’s, the WMD expert who committed suicide, with the observation that he was a ‘Walter Mitty’ sort of character.

Or take Dr. Debbie Reynolds, lately Government Chief Vet: what has she done other than her job that has been a resounding success? The Jury is, surely, still out on her and DEFRA’s performance over the last six months, so how can this award be justified?

Anyone who uses the train system will look at the award of a Knighthood to Ian McAllister of Network Rail, for services to Transport with a jaundiced eye. Let us hope the train taking him to his investiture is delayed by the wront sort of leaves on the line.

There is still a feeling that gongs come up with the rations when it comes to the Civil Service and Diplomatic Service: William Jeffrey, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Defence is advanced from Commander to Knight Commander of the Bath at a time when the Ministry of Defence’s performance has been pretty woeful: our servicemen who lack proper accommodation for their families or who risk injury through the failure to provide adequate equipment in Afghanistan will look askance at such an award.

Much of this might not be a problem if there were a requirement to emulate awards for gallantry to the military which are always accompanied by a citation setting out the deed for which the medal is awarded or, in the case, for example, of the Distinguished Service Order, the nature of the services rendered that merit the award. Then we could all judge for ourselves whether there was a genuine basis for this or that award.

Meanwhile a small dreary coterie of women, led by someone called The Lord Speaker, has jumped on a little bandwagon to call for the abolition of the right of the wives of Peers and (presumably) Knights to adopt the style ‘Lady X’. This overthrowing of a tradition which goes back hundreds of years is predicated on the usual tedious arguments about equality:

Wives of life barons, who are known as peeresses, are automatically allowed to use the courtesy title of Lady before their surname under current rules. Husbands of baronesses have no courtesy title.

Husbands of dames also have no courtesy title, while the wife of a man appointed a knight may use “Lady” before her surname. There are no courtesy titles for the partner of a peer, knight or dame in a civil partnership.

It is those last two words which surely lie at the heart of this petty proposal to destroy something integral to our traditions. It would be difficult to think up a suitable moniker for the non-honoured partner in a homosexual civil partnership, so everyone else must therefore be deprived of the right as well. Only thus will the God of Complete Equality In Absolutely Everything be propitiated.

Someone of whom I have never heard, Baroness d’Souza, Convenor of the Crossbenches (Convenor? Who thought that title up, pray? The TUC?) said:

The titles mean nothing and cause a lot of resentment. Why not abandon them altogether?

I must confess to be wholly unaware of any ‘resentment’ which is caused by Lord X’s wife being allowed to call herself ‘Lady X’: who exactly is full of all this resentment? Perhaps someone might care to tell us.

At heart, of course, is yet another arrow to be delivered to the heart of the whole system of the Peerage which these wearisome people hate so. The aristocracy has an eccentric system of courtesy titles, not one of which does anyone any harm, yet these will be the next target of these modern Levellers. And then, of course, the Monarchy comes next.

No wonder this petty idea springs unwished for from the bowels of a newspaper owned by a foreigner who is known for his republican views, though as an American Citizen it is no business of his whether we are a monarchy or a republic.

Perhaps we should be looking afresh at the issue of owners of newspapers being allowed to own television channels at the same time and, indeed, whether it is or is not inimical to the British national interest for our newspapers and broadcasting outlets to be owned by Foreigners at all.

Oh, and Parkinson himself opined this morning:

I’m being given this award because I’m clearing off

It seems as if he is underwhelmed too by the award, in which case, why has he accepted?

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