The Emperor's New Clothes (30/12/12)

Chatterers would have us believe the New Year Honours are archaic mumbo jumbo, but even adults need praise

Share
Related Topics

Tradition demands one of three responses to the New Year Honours list. One: why dish out so many? Two, to crow about all the people they left off. And three, to ask what is the point of all this archaic head-patting anyway?

The answer to the first is easy: a lot of people do a lot of remarkable work. If you find reading 1,350 names in tiny type across eight pages of the newspaper boring, pity the Queen and Prince Charles having to come up with 1,350 pithy things to say to the recipients twice a year.

As to the omissions, pointing them out is a favourite sport of columnists. Many years ago, someone suggested Bruce Forsyth should have a knighthood and one newspaper whipped up enough indignation to start a full-blown campaign. In 2008, almost 5,000 people signed a petition which was sent to Downing Street. Funnily enough, Whitehall mandarins like being bossed about as much as the rest of us, and the petition fomented a spirit of mutiny which delayed the honour, which finally arrived last year.

But it's the mean-spirited objection to the existence of the honours system at all that really needs scotching. Why make people commanders of an empire that we lost more than 60 years ago? What is a garter, anyway?

Well, the problem with living in an ancient country is that it comes with a lot of history. Probably, in an ideal world, we would rename the Order of the Bath, since recipients no longer undergo the mediaeval process of purification. But what to? The Excellence in Achievement Award?

When I did a teacher training course, we were told to make three positive comments to a child before making any criticism. That's obviously mad, and why I abandoned the profession, but praising someone when they have done well is an essential part of managing people. Even grown men and women need their heads patted when they've succeeded. And if the honours system is so creaky with tradition that it seems like something out of Hogwarts, what's so wrong with that? As we discovered when adults read Harry Potter books, we secretly like all that nonsense.

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

There is far too much sexism in the UK - but a point scoring system against other countries won't help to tackle it

Victoria Richards
 

Upmarket and downmarket – why the modern consumer loves a bit of both

Sean O'Grady
How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith: The man behind a British success story

Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith

Acton Smith launched a world of virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers