An end to the gong show

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Gong! A knighthood for Hugh Collum, former chairman of BNFL, on the day after our nationalised nuclear reprocessing industry announced losses of £303m and plans to privatise it were abandoned, again. Gong! Appointment to the Order of the Bath for David Omand, the Prime Minister's intelligence adviser, a member of the group of politically motivated men responsible for the disastrous assessment of Iraq's military capability. Gong! Jilly Cooper, OBE, for services to bonkbusting; Richard Whiteley, OBE, for presenting a television quiz show. The list goes on, almost literally ad nauseam. Every other name further devaluing the currency of honours so that, by the time the persistent reader reaches the ranks of the little-known who are being recognised for genuine service to the common good, Her Majesty is handing out worthless chits.

Gong! A knighthood for Hugh Collum, former chairman of BNFL, on the day after our nationalised nuclear reprocessing industry announced losses of £303m and plans to privatise it were abandoned, again. Gong! Appointment to the Order of the Bath for David Omand, the Prime Minister's intelligence adviser, a member of the group of politically motivated men responsible for the disastrous assessment of Iraq's military capability. Gong! Jilly Cooper, OBE, for services to bonkbusting; Richard Whiteley, OBE, for presenting a television quiz show. The list goes on, almost literally ad nauseam. Every other name further devaluing the currency of honours so that, by the time the persistent reader reaches the ranks of the little-known who are being recognised for genuine service to the common good, Her Majesty is handing out worthless chits.

A Downing Street spin-doctor said that nearly half the awards were "people's honours", nominated by the general public. In other words, more than half were not. That is precisely the problem. The handing out of honours to celebrities defeats the object. Trevor Brooking deserves an honour to draw attention to his work promoting sport in schools, but, generally, if someone famous does good work, we probably know about it already. Captains of industry and senior public servants have already been recognised, by definition, for doing their jobs.

Let us scrap the more than half of honours that do not belong to "the people", so that public attention can be directed where it is most deserved. Towards people such as Colin Parry, peace campaigner and father of Tim, who died in an IRA bomb blast, appointed OBE; and towards head teachers Enid Bibby and Alan Steer, made a dame and a knight respectively.

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