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The British Honours System: A BHS that should shut down

To join Gavin Williamson, who else is deserving of a knighthood? Here are some more ennoblements we should expect to see coming down the red carpet soon...

Jimmy Savile showing off his OBE. Photo: Leslie Lee/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

The British honours system, having long been something of an anachronism, has, under the careful stewardship of the ( just about) current prime minister Boris Johnson, become something between a contradiction in terms and a plain ol’ sick joke.

Two stories have vividly illustrated this in the last week or so: First, the confirmation in the Sunday Times that the prime minister personally intervened to ensure the elevation of the extremely wealthy and well-connected businessman (and, entirely incidentally, son of a KGB official) Evgeny Lebedev to the House of Lords back in 2020, despite MI5 having implored him not to.

Second, the announcement of the conferral of a knighthood upon the failed defence secretary turned failed education secretary Gavin Williamson, for services to… well, nobody seems to know. Not even No 10. Services to LinkedIn, perhaps? To Omertá?

I guess he must have just sold a LOT of fireplaces back in the day (and yes, I’m sure there’s a tortuous pun to be constructed around the irony of a man who started out as a fireplace salesman being FIRED from every PLACE he subsequently worked at, but life’s too short, or it certainly feels that way at the moment).

It would be nice to be a fly on the wall at his investiture; the Queen could combine the sword-dubbing bit with her customary question “And what do YOU do?”

In any event, with all pretence that the honours system functions as anything other than weaponised cronyism now abandoned, here are some more ennoblements we should expect to see coming down the red carpet soon…

LORD REES-MOGG, for services to INEVITABILITY

Because the Moggster has been His Lordship in everything but actuality pretty much since birth anyway, so why fight it? It must be a constant source of irritation to him that he has to turn up to work at a place calling itself the House of Commons, given that there’s nothing remotely “common” about him in any possible sense of that word.

And of course, his famously languorous in-house demeanour would be far better suited to the thickly upholstered red leather benches of the Lords, given that only about half of them are actually conscious at any given moment.

LORD JEREMY HUNT, for services to BACK OFF, SUNSHINE

Jeremy Who Is His Own Rhyming Slang is, after all, the only person in the Conservative party of whom the general public have actually heard, who has somehow managed to remain apart from the current administration and, therefore, isn’t covered in Boris-stink.

As such, he’s possibly the best-placed contender in the (postponed but still inevitable) leadership struggle. A surprise promotion to the Lords could be one of the LESS underhand ways that Boris might undermine Mr Hunt’s candidacy.

SIR VLADIMIR PUTIN, for services to GOOD TIMING

If knighthoods are now primarily to be lashed out to those who do the prime minister a solid, then surely no one has ever deserved this honour more richly than old Vlad The Invader himself. Can it really only be three weeks since the PM was clinging to his position by the skin of the Daily Express? Is it really less than a month since it was a matter of when, rather than if, the 55 letters would land on the 1922 Committee’s doormat?

And yet here we are, with all thoughts of resignation and leadership contests forgotten, and all it took was the unprovoked invasion of a sovereign state and the pushing of the world to the brink of nuclear armageddon for the first time in over 30 years.

I’m sure Mr Johnson would love to show his gratitude to Mr Putin, and indeed Mr Putin might even turn up to collect the award in person. London is, after all, just about the last place outside Russia that he’d feel welcome (and one imagines he wouldn’t have trouble finding somewhere to crash).

SIR COVID#19 for services to PROVIDING COVER

Perhaps the most vital service anyone or anything has performed for the prime minister in the nearly three years of his tenure has been that provided by the Spiky Meatball of Death himself, the “novel coronavirus” that turned out to be not so much a novel as an interminable multi-volume saga.

Where would Boris be without the virus to blame for all the chaos and disruption that might otherwise be ascribed to Brexit? Rip off those masks and sing his praises!

POEM OF THE WEEK

There’s another Batman movie
Just like the ones before
There’s another Batman movie
It’s basically the law.
There must always be a Batman
It was Christian, then Ben
But Ben got bored and wandered off
Re-cast and start again.
There’s lots and lots of Batmen
There’s the Twilight guy, you know
But somehow Michael Keaton
Is back for one more go.
Meanwhile over at Marvel
Of Spider-Men, there’s three
I don’t have time to watch them all
There’s only one of me.

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