Saturday, December 31, 2011

Dishonouring The Honours

It's fair to say that honours and, more so, peerages have always been used by politicians to favour their own cronies. Never was this more blatant than under Tony Blair's Labour administration where begging party fund raisers would actually offer honours and peerages at set prices. The more you gave the greater the honour. If you gave enough you would be able to seat your generous arse on the hallowed benches of the House of Lords.

The honours system was reluctantly reformed by the last Government following exposure of their abuse of it. The reforms introduced more independent scrutiny and nominations. Also, the provision of peerages now go through the House of Lord's appointments commission. The idea being that blatantly party political nominations get weeded out and rejected if there's no genuine reason for their inclusion. David Cameron, as can be seen here, was keen to broaden recognition to those that made efforts in their own communities to tackle issues and improve lives.

But none of this has stopped the papers and opposition politicians kicking off and denouncing the latest round of New Year honours. It's interesting to see who and why people are getting so upset this time round. For Labour and the Daily Mail it is "ex-cons" Gerald Ronson and Chris Preddie. These two evil bastards have, in Ronson's case, raised more than £100 million and donated £30 million to charity including, amongst others, the NPCC and the Princes Trust, and in Preddie's case, turned his life around, renounced crime, set up a charity to help other young people do the same (Making Dreams Reality) and is acting as a positive role model to a section of society that has very few.

However, both have in the past been on the wrong side of the law. And for some this is reason enough to exclude them from any recognition of their subsequent good deeds. Labour and the Daily Mail are also gunning for Paul Ruddock, a serial fund raiser and philanthropist for the arts. Both the tabloid and Labour's Michael Dugher point to the donations Ronson and Ruddock made to the Conservative party as further reason for their nominations to be called into question. While, given the abuses of the past, this is more understandable, I don't see why philanthropists should be excluded from honours just because they donate money to a political party. Indeed, it is highly likely that those who raise and donate money for good causes are going to want to support a party they think will do most for those same causes.

Not for the first time we see Labour and the Daily Mail, albeit for different reasons, being on the same reactionary side. As with the Jeremy Clarkson controversy they are both quick to leap on what the think looks like the moral high ground. But only manage to convince themselves that the ground they are on is high in the mountain ranges of morality by ignoring the broader context of the story.

It's a shame, because, from what I can see, these people all deserve their awards. There are also lots of other very deserving recipients that deserve the air time and column inches being given to these politically motivated accusations. Coverage that would provide a fantastic boost to some very good causes. But, at the end of the day, if newspaper sales are anything to go by, we all love a scandal. Even when there isn't really any.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Fat Ape

They say we evolved from the apes. Well after today's feasting I'm not sure there's much difference between me and this fellow...

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 23, 2011

State Funeral For Maggie?

The proposal to give Margaret Thatcher a state funeral deserves more public debate than it's been given, as Peter Oborne points out. But of course the debate will inevitable give voice to the usual left wing Thatcher haters who take every opportunity to share with us their feelings about the ex-Prime Minister.

Peter Oborne correctly points to sections of society that have reason to regret the changes she brought to the country. But those with genuine reason to dislike Thatcher are vastly outnumbered by the, mostly middle-class leftists, who hate Thatcher because the shift in British politics she engendered. They've had to live with the fact that the only way Labour has been able to get back into power has been to move to the right. They hate the fact that it took, what many of them believe to be a "Tory clone", like Tony Blair to get Labour elected and pine for the days when a Michael Foot, Neil Kinnock, Gordon Brown or even an Ed Miliband of all things, could once again be electable. Their insecurities often give rise to hateful and mindless attacks on the woman they see as the main change agent, their arch-enemy.

But such is politics and while I think the nation owes Maggie a great deal, I also think a national debate on whether or not she is a suitable candidate for a state funeral and what form that should take would be healthy. If the debate concludes for a state funeral it would result in one that has the support of more people than otherwise might be the case.

Indeed, without a real debate, the argument is influenced by the inane and ignorant such as this from Sunny Hundal on a e-petition to "privatise Thatcher's funeral". It's a good example of how the left's hatred blinds them to basic facts. Hundal refers to the "first privatised funeral" as if funerals are generally run by the state. It may come as a shock to Hundal and the signatories to the petition he is touting, but normal funerals are already private affairs. I know it's meant to be a joke and he's taken the idea of privatised funeral to mean a for-profit event with ticket sales etc. But the "joke" doesn't really work when you consider that, for example, funeral directors actually make a profit, the evil Thatcherite bastards! Hundal is right about one thing, perhaps Thatcher would have been happier with a private funeral.

But these kinds of articles and petitions highlight the polarised views on the subject and the need for more of a public debate.

It is kind of amusing to see so many on the left getting worked up about a state funeral for Maggie when you remember that the arrangements were set in train by Gordon Brown as part of his usual party political mischief making. He was attempting to destabilise a reforming Cameron leadership by courting Tory right wingers with gestures like inviting Maggie to No 10 and then the state funeral planning. But, as with most things Gordon tried, his plans didn't work out.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Ed's Progress

 It seems the public have made their minds up about Ed...

Screen grab from BBC's Newsnight