We are hearing this morning about the outgoing prime minister’s honours list. An “honours list” is basically where somebody is made a knight, or a dame, say, courtesy of the prime minister.
What nonsense! By all means, give somebody an award based on merit, for public service. But what happens when you leave it to a prime minister? We’re already hearing reports that some of her party’s key donors are the recipients of some of the honours.
But on the grand scale of things, these honours are the tip of the iceberg, One of my criticisms, to do with the EU, is that the prime minister appoints the UK’s EU commissioners. Appoints. No election here – if they’re a pal of the prime minister, they get the job. Of course, this isn’t a fault of the EU, but of the UK system. It goes to show that there is as much about the UK that needs to change as there is about the EU.
Of course, all of these honours are nominally bestowed by the head of state, the queen, although she is invariably advised by her ministers. In that case, what is the point in the charade? Some of these awards are named “something something of the British Empire”. When was the last time you thought of a British Empire?
One of the defining features of a system is how well that system can evolve over time. Don’t you think it’s time we thought about the role of patronage in modern society?