Ming the bashful shrugs off his knighthood for common touch
WHILE Tony Blair waves a tea mug in Downing Street and David Cameron pedals on a bike to work, Sir Menzies Campbell has found a new way to demonstrate his street cred - by downplaying his knighthood.
It emerged yesterday that the 65-year-old Liberal Democrat leader has been dropping his "sir" on documents such as the party's press releases.
The official biography section of his website - www.mingcampbell.com - also features no mention of his knighthood and refers to him throughout as "Ming" and not "Menzies".
Political opponents last night accused Sir Menzies of trying to cultivate a "man of the people" image.
The move also drew parallels with the former Labour MP Tony Benn, who renounced his title as Second Viscount Stansgate Anthony Wedgwood-Benn for its more prosaic alternative.
Some fellow MPs last night claimed the move was a clear attempt to make the QC and Glasgow University graduate appear more earthy.
Steve Pound, the Labour MP, said: "It's a bit late in the day for him to be discovering the common touch. At this rate they will soon be calling him 'your mate, Ming'. But at his age, I'm afraid it's doomed to fail."
Sir Menzies, the MP for North East Fife and a former Olympic sprinter, was conferred his title in 2004.
A Lib Dem party spokesman last night insisted the move, introduced a fortnight ago, was "not a big issue", adding: "We just decided to do it. It is only on his press releases; he is still Sir Menzies in correspondence."
SIR Arnold Clark, the head of the 7,000-employee car company, received his knighthood in 2004 - 50 years after starting the business that carries his name. He said: "It is a tremendous honour to be recognised for my services to the motor industry and to the Scottish community."
The businessman added: " I am happy to be referred to as either 'Sir Arnold' or 'Mr Clark' by staff, colleagues or friends. I would prefer those introductions than 'the old guy'."
Sir Arnold, 78, the chairman and chief executive of the company, revealed he had gone straight back to work after the investiture at the Palace of Holyroodhouse.
Sir Arnold also said that he had shared a joke with the Queen as she bestowed the honour. The Queen, told of his half-century in cars, told him: "Well, it certainly doesn't look as though you've been 50 years in the motor trade."
He later said: "It's never been an arduous task going to my business in the morning, so doing something you love doing and getting an award is a bonus."
SIR Tom Farmer, the founder of the Kwik-Fit chain, received his knighthood in 1997.
"On occasions when someone introduces me as 'Sir Tom Farmer' when I'm going to speak, I feel very good and wish my old teachers and mum and dad could hear it.
"What I don't want is it to be used all the time. If I'm in company, I do find myself saying to people: 'Listen, my name is Tom, that's exactly what my mum called me, and I'd like everyone else to call me the same'.
"There are occasions when it's used and I think: I like hearing that."
Asked if there were any down sides to being a Sir, he replied: "I haven't come across any."
The businessman, who also has a CBE, recalled that soon after receiving his knighthood, he had heard his new title announced in public by the master of ceremonies before a speech.
Sir Tom asked his audience: "Ladies and gentlemen, I wonder if I could do something very personal.
"I have never heard that said before. Would you mind if I asked the master of ceremonies to do it again?"
PLAIN OLD RICHARD
FAMED for his casual and occasionally intrepid style, Richard Branson was probably an unlikely candidate to parade the knighthood he received in the millennium honours. Will Whitehorn, the entrepreneur's press spokesman, said: "He is always Richard. We will often put 'Sir Richard Branson said' in press releases because that's his title. If he meets somebody, the last thing he would expect to be called is Sir Richard. He doesn't put it in his own correspondence when he writes to people.
"When it is an official document to a government body then we would sign it Sir Richard Branson."
The Virgin head was an early pioneer of the tieless look in business. His dislike of suited formality even led him to try and remove the tie of Jack McConnell, the First Minister, when the pair sat together for a press call at Edinburgh Airport on the eve of the G8 summit at Gleneagles.
A light-hearted Branson tried to take off the First Minister's tie for the cameras, joking: "He's even younger than I am."
LORD Tim Garden knows more than most about honours, having been knighted before becoming a Liberal Democrat peer in the House of Lords. The former assistant chief of the defence staff and RAF air marshal said: "Before people called me Sir Timothy, then when you get a peerage you're not allowed to use your first name.
"As far as I'm concerned, when anybody knows me, I'm Tim Garden, when I go up to somebody and introduce myself, I always say 'Hi, I'm Tim Garden'. There are occasions when you are giving prizes at a school, or you are drawing the raffle at some great event, where it's a bit like being the mayor of somewhere - the organisation likes to feel they're grander because they've got somebody with a title."
The peer said he was struck by how formal the House of Lords was. "It was a bit like going back to my school days; people don't like the use of first names," he said. Receiving his knighthood in 1994 was "fantastic". He added: "Although people talk about them coming with the rations, they are few and far between in the military and civil service."
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