Straight Talking: Gongs are yet again dogged by disrepute

The latest New Year Honours List has brought the whole system into disrepute and again the Westminster political parties are largely responsible.

Historically these gongs were for people whose achievements had been exceptional, for example Sir Winston Churchill, Sir Laurence Olivier, Sir Roger Bannister. Even the various British Empire Medals were rightly difficult to come by and, like knighthoods, were meaningful because of their scarcity.

Your correspondent, Mr L Heaton, describes the award of a CBE to Ros Jones as a joke but the medal follows directly in a long line of rewards, seldom for success, dished out by political parties to their cronies. In South Yorkshire there has been a veritable plethora of honours for council leaders who have presided over the continuing failure of the region, often wasting large amounts of public money in the process. In recent times Roger Stone, the Labour leader of Rotherham Council, picked up an OBE.

Then Paul Scriven the Liberal leader of Sheffield Council was rewarded, for reasons not immediately apparent, with a seat in the House of Lords. Next came a knighthood for Barnsley council leader Steve Houghton whose heroic deeds are no doubt legendary followed, mysteriously, by a CBE for Ros Jones in Doncaster. These rewards are determined by party politicians who clearly require no compelling evidence or independent references before dishing out the honours. At national level David Cameron demeaned the system further by giving knighthoods to almost all his Downing Street personnel; the only individual to miss out was Larry the cat who was probably the most deserving of them all. On top of which, the current Tory leadership has knighted two virtually unknown Tory MPs – the usual reward for those going no further up the ladder of fame and fortune. It may well be time to abandon the entire honours system and find some other way of acknowledging outstanding and genuine services to society. For non-politicians the current route to national recognition is littered with hurdles even to get the most basic honour. It takes an average of two and a half years before a decision is made, whereas a political honour takes merely a nod in the right direction. Many nominees are now so fed up with the corruption and cronyism, along with the awarding of honours to undeserving mediocrities, that they are refusing to accept their medals; Lynn Faulds Wood being the latest admirable example.

Sir Ken Dodd, arguably the greatest entertainer Britain has produced, disgracefully had to reach the age of 89 before gaining recognition. If he’d only worked for his local council for five minutes he could have been dining out as Sir Ken for decades.