Honours system is flawed but still rewards those who do good work – leader comment

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage (Picture: Jacob King/PA Wire)
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage (Picture: Jacob King/PA Wire)
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Honours system can reward those who do vital work outside of the spotlight of publicity.

The honours system is not without its critics. Some view it as the epitome of privilege as The Establishment aggrandises itself with titles and gongs and politicians scratch the backs of those with the necessary money and influence.

Poet Benjamin Zephaniah, turning down an OBE in 2003, did so in protest against the Blair government and the Iraq War but also because its full name, the Order of the British Empire, reminded him of “how my foremothers were raped and my forefathers brutalised”.

However – and there is a however, life is generally made up of shades of grey – the modern honours system does recognise the work of many people who quietly go about doing extraordinary and vital work in communities across the country.

The headlines may be dominated by the famous names – actors, sports stars and so on – but public recognition of good deeds that normally do not garner such public attention can be extremely important for the morale of those involved and the profile of what they are doing – awards like the OBE given to Helen Holland, who co-founded the Wellbeing Scotland project In Care Abuse Survivors, for services to survivors of childhood abuse.

The awards system can also act as a form of redress for those overlooked by society such as Rose Reilly – a Scottish footballer who became a star in Italy in the 1970s and 1980s at a time when the women’s game was paid scant attention at home – who has now been made an MBE. Reilly even played for the Italian national side, becoming its captain and winning the equivalent of the Women’s World Cup.

Those of a certain age will also be delighted to hear that Floella Benjamin – a star of children’s programmes like Play School and Play Away – is to become a Dame.

Despite the principled objections of some, society should have a way of showing its gratitude and approval for those who make our lives better. And it’s worth saying that sometimes these people are members of The Establishment and can even be, dare we say, politicians. A knighthood for Nigel Farage has been suggested by some, including Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen, who suggested it would help “pull our country back together” if an honour was also given to Ken Clarke, a leading Remainer.

So we have another reason to welcome the latest awards – the absence of the words “Arise, Sir Nigel”.