A little honorary consolation

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The Independent Online
AS YOU probably know, John Major has announced a rejigging of the honours system under which titles will cease to be perks of the job, or going-away presents, or bribes. From now on, honours and titles will go only to people who plainly deserve them. This revolutionary idea is not, of course, retrospective: we will not see Mr Jeffrey Archer or Mrs Thatcher again in our lifetimes.

Mr Major has also created some new titles to replace the old hat, class-ridden, Old Boy honours, and for those who weren't paying attention or who have not yet given up hope of buying a title, here is a full list of the new Major honours.

The Distinguished Manufacturing Order. This replaces the Distinguished Service Order. In fact, now that Mr Major has said he would like Britain to have a manufacturing base, rather than a services slant, the word 'service' will be replaced by 'manufacturing' in all honours and titles. Except where it refers directly to the armed services, as in Imperial Services Medal.

Military Cut and Bar. Can be awarded to any officer or soldier for bravery in the face of compulsory redundancy while on active duty.

Charter Campaign Medal. For citizens who were given redress under a John Major Charter, and then wrote to 10 Downing Street to say thank you.

Companion of the Grand Order of Knighthood of St John- Stevas. Can be awarded to any ex-Cabinet officer who regularly goes on television to support the Government and Royal Family.

Honorary Member of the British Empire. Over the past 30 years thousands of innocent people have been made Members of, or given Orders of, the British Empire, even though the government was well aware that there was no longer an Empire and that therefore it was presenting a fraudulent medal. This dilemma has been solved by the creation of a night-club in the West End called the British Empire. Everyone is a member.

Knight Engineer, etc. Germans have an informal style of address (Herr Professor, Herr Doktor, Herr Ingenieur) which allows you to pay tribute to what a man is good at. In Britain, when a man is called Sir, we never know if it is because he is a) the son of someone, b) a famous actor, c) an MP who is too stupid to be promoted, or d) actually good at something.

So Mr Major has created a new set of knighthoods that will include the professional qualification in the title, such as Knight (or Dame) Engineer, Knight Surgeon, Knight Actor, Knight Interviewer and so on. The recipient will be addressed as 'Sir Opening Batsman Graham Gooch' or whatever. The point of the title is that anyone who is just plain Sir will be correctly perceived to be a time- server or political nonentity.

Honorary Doctorate. Honorary doctorates will be given by the state to any long-serving and deserving honorary, ie bogus, doctor. It has long been recognised that bogus doctors do the NHS a great service, by looking after all those bogus patients who would otherwise waste the time of real doctors. Instead of being prosecuted, at last bogus doctors are getting their due.

Order of Health. Given to anyone who for at least a year saves the state money by not applying for treatment under the NHS. (This does not include patients who have waited more than 12 months for an operation they actually want.)

The Harris Cross. Awarded to anyone who has the courage to resign. This is to rebut those critics who said that nobody has ever honourably resigned during the Thatcher and Major eras, because one man has, and that's Jim Harris, the man who stood down from the London Ambulance Service the other day because it was so badly run. OK, one man is not a great score after nearly 14 years in power, and it's a shame we had to wait 14 years for it to happen, but it's a start.

Clip-On Plastic Red Tomato. Given to anyone who, in Mr Major's opinion, has shown justifiably insane optimism about our industrial future.

N B. For people who have been given titles and have subsequently been shown to be unworthy of them (employees of Guinness, heads of health trusts, heads of corrupt airlines, etc) Mr Major has announced the creation of a network of regional Title Banks, open 24 hours a day, into which title- holders can anonymously drop their unwanted honours, medals and titles overnight so that they can be cheaply and anonymously recycled.