Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The New Year's Honours List makes me wonder, as all honours list announcements do, about the relative values at work behind it. Is a lifetime of literary excellence worth the same as a few years of cycling quite fast? Even if you think Chris Hoy deserves his gong, why's he getting it at 32, when Terry Pratchett had to wait until he was 60? And would Pratchett have had a sniff without the announcement that he's battling Alzheimer's? When she notched up her swimming double gold, I predicted that it'd be Dame Rebecca Adlington come December. Fortunately, a 19 year-old DBE was too much even for the honours selectors this time, so she gets the OBE - which is just about right, I'd say, but if she manages another gold in 2012, she's a shoo-in, isn't she? If forced to write about Kelly Holmes or Tanni Grey-Thompson, I would have to refer to 'Dame' Kelly and 'Dame' Tanni - so risible do I find their titles. So, the question is: Why do sports men and women get instant high-level gratification from the gong squad? It's a recent thing. After Moscow 1980, Steve Ovett got an OBE, Sebastian Coe got an MBE. Coe's later elevation was the result of his political career (political honours are a whole other can of worms, which, given time, we might well open). Does this indicate the devaluation of honours? Or am I guilty of doing a Rhodes Boyson?

There are other, subtler distinctions at play in the whole sideshow. Why is it Sir Mick Jagger, but only Robert Plant CBE? Sir Percy's got a ring to it, no? Why is it Sir Tom Jones, but only Bruce Forsyth CBE or Ronnie Corbett OBE? Why do I care so much about this largely meaningless display of patronage? Stan Tracey had it right when he received the OBE (since upgraded to a C, but if anyone deserves an hereditary peerage for services to jazz, it's Stan). Someone said to him that he must feel very honoured. He replied "Does it get me a discount in Sainsbury's?".

7 comments:

Kecske said...

Why does everyone in Britain want a Scots Granny in her 80s to give them one...

Apres la Guerre said...

Stanley Baxter?

Clair said...

Quite right LB. And let us not forget those bloody useless civil servants who all get a gong just for doing their jobs. Just get rid of all these sodding titles.

Robin Carmody said...

To be fair, automatic knighthoods for civil servants are no longer given out as much as they once were (I think that changed under Major, who also - after a campaign from the Mail on Sunday, of all papers - abolished the class-based distinction between the MBE and the old British Empire Medal). It's still a complete anachronism, though.

Interestingly, re. Robert Plant, the Financial Times commented circa 1970 (yes, really - that long ago) that if the Beatles had been awarded MBEs for their export achievements, Led Zeppelin might reasonably receive the same honours ...

Clair said...

http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/news/society/knighthood-for-child-who-made-own-bed-every-day-for-a-week-200812311483/

Brian Sibley said...

Sorry they missed Brucie again! And no Dame Pet, either... Shame!

Brian Sibley said...

PS: Liked the story you left on my blog about Bruce...