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.

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