Middle-of-the-road honours for middle-brow Britain

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The Independent Online
Perhaps it will be known as John Major's slippers-and-cardigan list. Cosy, safe, middle-of-the-road, the New Year Honours sum up the Prime Minister's image as a man who enjoys his frozen peas. They smack of a man in his last days of office who wants to say a big "thank you and good-bye" to all those who have kept him entertained along the way.

Step forward, for example, Sir Alec Bedser, 78. Alec was one of the cricketing greats when John was a lad and both still turn out to cheer for Surrey whenever they get a chance. Step forward also Cilla Black and Joan Collins OBE. While no one would want to suggest - would they? - that the Prime Minister is a fan, their inclusion on the list does suggest that populist touch for which he is so well known.

Among three new life peers is Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, composer of a string of hit musicals including Cats, Evita and Phantom of the Opera. While Norma spends her nights at the opera, it seems John keeps at least half an eye on the West End.

No one from the Spice Girls got an honour despite Mr Major's announcement that he would be getting one of their CDs for Christmas, but Paul McCartney did follow up his 1965 MBE with a knighthood. McCartney takes these matters seriously and has treasured his MBE, unlike John Lennon who returned his in protest over Biafra and Vietnam.

The screaming fans who besieged Buckingham Palace 30 years ago will probably be tucked up at home with their cocoa when the former Beatle goes to collect his gong, though. Those ageing rock chicks are probably happier delving into a thriller by Frederick Forsyth or listening to Radio 4 comedy with Ned Sherrin, both of whom are appointed CBE. Or maybe they will be watching a repeat of Peak Practice, Bramwell or Soldier, Soldier on television, all written by Lucy Gannon MBE. Or a play by Sir Alan Ayckbourn. Or a tear-jerking rendition of "Gimme the Moonlight," by Frankie Vaughan CBE.

Even Terry Wogan, has an OBE despite being an Irish citizen. And it has been a good year for Liverpool, too. Alongside Cilla and Paul on the list is the poet Roger McGough OBE, who used to play in the band the Scaffold with Paul's brother Mike.

Sporting heroes of the 1990s have been given a look-in too, with the Formula One world champion Damon Hill appointed OBE and the oarsman Steven Redgrave, who won his fourth Olympic gold medal this year, adding a CBE to the MBE he already possesses. The Arsenal goalkeeper David Seaman and the rugby league star Martin Offiah are each appointed MBE.

Far be it from John Major to forget the ordinary men and women who have done their bit for the community, though. This year 47 per cent of those on the list have been recognised for voluntary service and 44 per cent have been nominated by members of the public.

Among them are Robert Hopper, a roadworker from Alnwick in Northumberland who is appointed MBE along with Arthur George, a school-crossing patrolman from Portsmouth, Shirley Everett, a Westminster news vendor and Joaquim Jose Cubertino, head waiter at St Thomas' Hospital, in south London.

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