Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Cheapening of the Honours System

It made the news yesterday that boxer "Prince" Naseem Hamed has been stripped of his MBE after his jail sentence. I must admit to feeling a little bit of sympathy for him. He committed a crime, was sentenced and served his time in prison (although my views on serving 16 weeks of a 15 month sentence is another issue!)so what is achieved by stripping him of his MBE? He was awarded his honour for his boxing achievements - as far as I can tell these achievements still stand.

It's just another example of the Honours System being debased and used as a way of Blair cashing in on the popularity (or otherwise) of specific celebs. Is every recipient of an honour who is found guilty of a criminal offence stripped of the honour? I don't know, but I doubt it. But Hamed's crime was high profile so something had to be done....

I won't go into the whole issue of the Cash for Peerages issue, but I look forward to those found guilty of any crime involved losing their honours - potentially including their membership of the Privy Council. My issue with the Honours System for a while has been the handing out of major honours to people just because of their celebrity status. Kelly Holmes is great, but why did she receive a Damehood? And we all know that if England had won the the World Cup we would have woken up on New Year's Day to Sir Becks.

The Honours System has become Blair's tool to ingratiate himself with the rich and the famous and jump on popularity bandwagons - that is what has truly cheapened it, not the crimes of individual recipients.


Al said...

Are there not two issues here? One is what is to be done with those that have received honours and are subsequently convicted and imprisoned and secondly the award of honours to celebrities who may not seem to be deserving of them.

There are many examples of those who are convicted of crimes having their honours removed. The businessman Jack Lyons forfeited his knighthood in the 1980s having been convicted of fraud; Anthony Blunt lost his knighthood when it was revealed he was a Communist spy; and Roger Casement lost his knighthood when he was convicted and executed for treason. Moreover, Jonathan Aitken was forced to resign from the Privy Council when convicted of perjury, as was John Stonehouse the former Labour MP who attempted to fake his own death. Hamed was not stripped of his MBE out of political convenience, but perhaps there is a lack of consistency and transparency in the treatment of those whose subsequent actions lead to them to deserve having awards revoked that needs to be resolved.

However, there does seem to be a clear cheapening over the honours system over recent years and much of it seems to come from Tony Blair wanting to show he is hip and with it and has lots of kewl friends. I think that Kelly Holmes and Steve Redgrave deserved their awards for real sporting achievement but others are clearly questionable. The problem, though, is that if we were to go through a list of awards some people would whole heartedly agree and others would be opposed. What is the criterion used for different types of award to ensure fairness, consistency and worthiness? Perhaps that is the real question.

Ellee said...

It is a tricky one because I assume by having a criminal record, they would not have been eligible in the first place for an honour, they have to be squeaky clean. Should it affect any actions in later life? It's a very tricky one. On balance, I think not, if boxing was not discredited which was the reason for his award, then it is not appropriate.

Let's see what happens to those re the peerages, I think anyone convicted of offences here will certainly be stripped of this too.