I am no fan of the British “Honours” System. In so far as there should be awards at all, they should be for actually achieving something. But the system of awarding a MBE to a long-serving midwife who has delvered babies in the treacherous weather in the Scottish Highlands and awarding a OBE to a school dinner lady in Lancashire…serves as a smokescreen to give bigger and better awards to senior civil servants and captains of industry.
Routinely the Chief Executives of British banks were among those knighted. One such person was “Sir” Fred Goodwin, Chief Executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland, who became the poster boy of banking incompetence when he headed the bank that eventually needed a £45 billion bailout from the British taxpayer and the poster boy for banker greed when he initially accepted a pension of £600,000 per year (later “savagely” reduced to a mere £300,000 per year.
Goodwin kept that knighthood, which oblidged all who met him to call him “Sir Fred” rather than “Mr Goodwin”. Of course, he is no better than any British citizen………well actually he is and thats the problem. A Honours system produces a system which insitutes and legitimises different stra in society……from the Queen down…….thru Princes…Dukes….Viscounts….Earls….Lords……Knights…..OBEs…… MBEs.
There is a mechanism for annulling honours. The little used forfeiture committee, a few months ago ruled that a headteacher who had lost the confidence of her professional body lose the title “Dame” (the female version of “Sir”) and there is the better known example of “Sir” Anthony Blunt who two decades ago was stripped of his knighthood. He had been a war-time Russian agent who had confessed all to British Intelligence and the affair was hushed up and he went on to become “Sir” Anthony Blunt, Curator of the Queens Art Collection.
So what of Fred Goodwin? Well, he has been the subject of much comment in the Press over the past few years. By no means the only banker who screwed the nation but certainly the most visible. And in times of austerity, job losses, welfare cuts etc…….he is perceived as having been the man who got away with it all. And a living example that the British people are not “in this together” as the Tory led Government claims. Now it is important to note that Goodwin received his knighthood under the previous Labour Government.
But yesterday Goodwin was stripped of his knighthood. And curiously (typically) the Press which led the lynch mob has changed its mind. There are now some people who think that poor old Fred has been scapegoated and rather than call for more heads to roll………as they would have done literally in Tudor times….the Press and friends of bankers are now worried that this is reflective of not just an anti-banking or anti-business agenda.
Yet it is slightly uncomfortable. Stripping Fred Goodwin of his knighthood is a very peculiar……..genteel ……form of lynch mob.
Take for example, “Lord” Taylor of Warwick. Member of the House of Lords…the Legislature. “Lord” Taylor was previously John Taylor the leading black member of the Conservative Party who failed to get elected to the House of Commons an became the first black Conservative “Lord”. Unfortunately “Lord” Taylor was unavailable for legislative duty for part of 2011, as he served a prison sentence for faudulently receiving expenses.
Take the een better known example of “Lord” Archer……novelist, former Chairman of the Conservative Party and former Tory MP as Jeffrey Archer. Ex-con. Jailed in 2001, he was jailed for four years for perjury at a previous libel trial where he won substantial damages.
Yet does it not seem a double standard that poor old Fred loses that knighthood. After all the only thing of which he is guilty is incompetence. There have no criminal charges. Yet Jeffrey Archer, convicted perjurer remains a “Lord”.