Tuesday, July 24, 2007

About time too

By choosing today to announce a pledge to reform the honours system to reward unsung heroes in the week following the conclusion of the loans-for-lordships investigation, Gordon Brown couldn't really be making it any clearer that he intends to conduct his government in a very different way from Tony Blair.

There will, in any case, be no more coronets for cash, at least under Labour. Reform of the House of Lords to bring in a 100pc elected second chamber will, I am confident, be a Labour manifesto pledge at the next election, and if Gordon wins, the backwoodsmen who have fought for 100 years to retain this vestige of the feudal system will finally be forced to admit defeat under the Salisbury Convention.

But while Gordon is at it, he really should go much further in dismantling an honours system which is rooted in the days of Empire and which, in its absurd hierarchy of categories, still helps to perpetuate the class divide in British society.

It's all very well to hand out honours to Britain's "Everyday Heroes," in the words of Mr Brown's latest book. But not if that means that lollipop ladies and local charity fundraisers are still awarded MBEs while senior civil servants continue to collect their KCMGs (otherwise known as Kindly Call Me God).

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leon said...

Reform of the House of Lords to bring in a 100pc elected second chamber will, I am confident, be a Labour manifesto pledge at the next election

'Ang on, 'ang on, didn't Jack Straw say recently there'd be no more than 80% elected in the Lords?

Ross F said...

The whole point of the honours system is to channel corruption, cronyism and patronage into baubles* that don't matter in the slightest. In the USA for example where donors can't be slipped a knighthood, they end up getting appointed to actual proper jobs like ambassadors which is far more worrying.

* I don't count seats in the House of Lords as baubles.

Paul Linford said...


The words Straw used were "substantially or wholly elected." While he is known to favour 80pc, he has not ruled out 100pc.

John Quincy Adams said...

This so-called Lords reform is so much magician's misdirection to fool the gullible rubes & yokels. All the House of Commons is about are staying on top and getting its way, full stop.

Constitutional Convention, oh the horror. The British people in their wisdom choose? The British people might choose a principled course over the pragmatism that the House or the dominant party wants. And anyway you've only got Jack Straw not James Madison.

Co-equal legislative bodies? Fixed terms of office? No multiple office holding? An American style Senate with the executive and judicial branches forever kicked out of the legislative? A non puppet, non dependant, non grace-and-favor, non lord giveth lord taketh away proud second body? No chance.