by Henry Hill
Monday, 8
February 2021
Reaction
15:00

Another bizarre Labour proposal: scrapping the honours system

Keir Starmer has a long way to go if he wants to be head of the 'patriotic party'
by Henry Hill
Captain ‘civically recognised’ Tom Moore doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. Credit: Getty

The week just past has really highlighted just how far Sir Keir Starmer has to go if he wants to bring Labour to the position of being a “patriotic party”.

First, there was the allergic reaction of some of his comrades to the very idea of associating themselves with the Union Flag. Next came the publication of a new party report which proposes scrapping the honours system — including military medals! — and replacing it with a “civic award”.

It’s difficult to imagine a more self-defeating approach to honours than such a full-frontal assault on their aesthetics, when the aesthetics are almost the entire point. A mere “civic award” would not have the same appeal, and thus nor the same usefulness to the country.

The system is a way of recognising and rewarding people who go above and beyond to make a contribution to national life. Opponents of honours tend to latch on to high profile examples of dubious merit, but few who take the time to read through the full list of ordinary people recognised in each list can deny that theirs is an example we should want to encourage.

Honours are a very cost-effective way to do that. There’s no lump sum, no annual retainer. Just a bit of metal, perhaps a sash, a few letters after your name, and an opportunity to take part in a fancy ceremony and meet Her Majesty the Queen, who remains — loathe as some in the Labour Party might be to admit it — hugely popular and a central figure in national life.

It’s the same story with the monarchy. In their report, Labour suggests scrapping its “trappings and add-ons”. But this completely misunderstands the role of the Queen in modern life. As she does not govern, the sovereign serves as a focus for national ritual and symbolism. That’s most of the role.

We also vest in the monarchy a lot of the pomp and ceremony that other countries exhibit through their elected politicians. Would the Left really rather it was Boris Johnson with the horse-drawn carriage and military guard at the opening of Parliament?

And as for the suggestion to scrap gallantry medals for the Armed Forces: that is political ricin.

Starmer is, of course, unlikely to act on the recommendations of this particular report, which was drawn up for Jeremy Corbyn.

But it is nonetheless a window into the soul of his party, and the instinctive antipathy to the traditional and distinctive forms of British institutions should concern us as the Labour leader gears up for a “comprehensive constitutional review”. The predictable outcome of which will almost certainly be calls to move closer to a standardised, international template for what a “modern” country ought to look like.

Labour can do better. There is plenty of political space for a party which is at once visibly at ease with what makes Britain distinct and rigorously focused on improving the material condition of ordinary people. Much less for one which would have stripped Captain Sir Tom Moore of his knighthood. If he doubts it, Starmer should remember his Orwell:

“What can the England of 1940 have in common with the England of 1840? But then, what have you in common with the child of five whose photograph your mother keeps on the mantelpiece? Nothing, except that you happen to be the same person.”
- George Orwell, The Lion and the Unicorn

Join the discussion


To join the discussion, get the free daily email and read more articles like this, sign up.

It's simple, quick and free.

Sign me up
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
49 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago

I would happily abolish our cronyist and often absurd Honours system, which hands out baubles to useless civil servants and anyone who has kicked a ball or appeared on TV. However, it is typically bizarre that this proposal should come from Sir Keir Starmer, a man who would happily abolish the monarchy yet accepted a knighthood. Honestly, that guy is forever kneeling for an institution he doesn’t believe in, or kneeling for an organization that all rational people don’t believe in (BLM). What an idiot.

Paul Booth
Paul Booth
1 year ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Shouldn’t you be at work?

J A Thompson
J A Thompson
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Booth

And you?

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
1 year ago

loathe as some in the Labour Party might be to admit it

“loathe” is a verb meaning “dislike intensely”.
“loth” is an adjective meaning “reluctant”.

Please get this stuff straight.

Andy Clark
Andy Clark
1 year ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

To complete the set, “loath” is also an adjective meaning “reluctant”. 😉

Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
1 year ago

Such a weird idea. Many countries without a monarch get similar kinds of awards, and they are generally given with trappings and pomp – just different trappings and pomp.

That’s kind of the point. You don’t invite someone who has done something admirable, who you want to honour, down to the local drivers licence renewal office to pick up their certificate.

Warren Alexander
Warren Alexander
1 year ago

Getting rid of an outdated “honours” system makes outstanding good sense. But it would hardly sit well with a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath who leads the Labour Party.

SUSAN GRAHAM
SUSAN GRAHAM
1 year ago

The Labour party are always anti-honours / anti-house of Lords until they are the recipients….

J A Thompson
J A Thompson
1 year ago
Reply to  SUSAN GRAHAM

No-one likes their snout in the trough more than an exalted labourite!

Nick Whitehouse
Nick Whitehouse
1 year ago

I am against “reforming” the House of Lords, except in a very limited way.

The number of peers is far too large and should be reduced.

An elected (proportional represention?) second chamber would be a nightmare.

Perhaps a stipulation that, in future, half the new peers should be people who have not be involved in politics or the public sector?

Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
1 year ago

How about a simple system – hereditary peers (temporal & spiritual) only

J A Thompson
J A Thompson
1 year ago

Why spiritual? The CofE has proven both ‘woke’ and unfit for purpose over the last year at least. Why would one give Wokeby a voice in the dismantling of our culture?

hughrosetrian
hughrosetrian
1 year ago
Reply to  J A Thompson

They are also selected by a very suspect panel.

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
1 year ago

If its to be any “Spiritual” then
drop some of the bishops for
Leader of the Islamic Council,
Chief Rabbi, etc
But please not the “Wee Frees”.

J A Thompson
J A Thompson
1 year ago
Reply to  Doug Pingel

Sorry, none of them should be anywhere near the levers of power, particularly not those of the terminally dogmatic bent: we are having enough of a fight for the survival of the majority culture of this country.

hughrosetrian
hughrosetrian
1 year ago

If the new peers were restricted to people who had some useful knowledge or experience to offer to the Upper House, all would be well. The majority of passed over politicians would not be eligible on that criteria. There then only needs to be a limited legth of service decided and all would be sorted.

Peter Lockyer
Peter Lockyer
1 year ago

The honours system stinks and as it operates devalues the very contributions that ordinary people make. There are professional agencies that will help massage people’s CV’s so that they can run a campaign to get an honour. The way that the honours system operates is particularly objectionable in the civil service. In one department, there was a lovely and very hardworking disabled person who worked tirelessly after a long commute on a very low wage. She rightly got an OBE for her work supporting disabled colleagues. But the CEO unbelievably got a CBE. I am still at a loss how she got it. She split the organisation from top to bottom with a ‘transformation’, was thoroughly divisive, and had a deep dislike it would seem of middle aged men, openly favouring a string of incompetent women, much to the horror of the many excellent femail colleagues there. She left a very unhappy workplace on her retirement and got a nice cushy part time job in the legal profession. I’m no socialist, but I think Keir is onto something here.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago

My question here is is what do young people think about this article? Any young people there on UnHerd?

Paul Goodman
Paul Goodman
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

You’ll get no support from them here Chris; try insta. Its mostly literate middle aged middle right types here with no truck with the state ownership of the means of production. Freddie S. is about the oldest. You’ll find the snowflake woke types you seek on Navara or Canary.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Goodman

I don’t want support. I want a discussion instead of a palsy-walsy easy agreement. I am old. I have no belief in snowflake politics but while the old agree with each other here, the young people will change the world.

J A Thompson
J A Thompson
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Sadly, not for the better if the shoutiest of them get their way. I do not want my grandchildren growing up in a world sculpted by BLM, Antifa and XR, which quite a lot of the young (and some older people who should know better) seem to be hung up on at the moment. I would like them to have some pride in themselves and their heritage, freedom of speech and travel and to have the power supplies necessary to keep warm in the winter.

Daniel Goldstein
Daniel Goldstein
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

I’m 33, so I may just about count as young. And I think the article is nonsense (see above).

David Foot
David Foot
1 year ago

The House of Commons has failed our nation dismally.
Since the time when there has been so much primacy of the House of Commons, let us face it, the more power to the House of Commons, the more common we become, even our nation has been split and England itself in 2019 was potentially at the mercy of the Marxist / IRA. It is just incredible what was being thrown at the leavers of power of our country by the Marxists! We could have been put back before the times of the Tudors and with a much worse not patriotic Marxist population to say the least.
Our greatness was derived from Monarchs in Privy Council with occasional calling the House of Commons to talk about the budget.
The further we move away from our greatness the less we are, we need to start restoring the Royal Prerogative big time and reforming the House of Lords to represent the corporate tax payers and the sectors of power, as the House of Lords was originally conceived to be.
Such sectors of collective power are not represented anywhere else and these “collective beings” need to be taken in to account, they shouldn’t have to “lobby” the House of Commons which represents individual tax payers!
The interests of collective tax payers are not the same as those of individuals who may be part of them, working or owning them.
The “collective tax payers” should have power in their own right.
As in the past it should be the Sovereign who gives them representation. Today the House of Lords is only the sewer of the House of Commons.
Honours and House of Lords need to be expressions of real practical power.
We positively don’t need a more Marxist world, we need to decolonize the Marxists from education, judiciary, civil service etc. Marxists are enemies of our nation according to the definitions of Marxism given by them in their manifesto.
In other words, for our own good, we need to keep the value apportioned by the Crown and throw away all Marxist values ASAP, we need to get off the curve which we have been on since the Marxist landslide of 1945 which destroyed ad deprecated the Empire and in 1997 which put paid to our national union!
2019 was meant to be the end of England at the hands of the Marxists / IRA and in one life time, our nation has gone from unifying one quarter of the world to not even being a nation and we were going to end up as a partitioned England invaded by an incompatible group of immigrants bringing their own laws for us to obey.. (real invaders and not immigrants) all this has failed, let us start our way back or we will be nothing in less than a lifetime, this is a declared objective of Marxism and is stated in their manifesto.

Michael Sinclair
Michael Sinclair
1 year ago

I could not disagree with the honours system in this country more. A major issue for this country is that we are, and have been, ‘hostage to heritage’ like no other country for time immemorial. This has kept back any effective progression in becoming a more modern country, kept the class system intact, given a national identity gender out of synch with world development, (recognised and exploited by Brexit). Is it really necessary for societal benefit to have – Lords – Ladies – Sir’s – OBE’s – MBE’s – CBE’s – a percentage given as favours – as some sort of society paradigm? This country really needs to wake up from its Plantagenent Slumber. The honours system is outdated, misplaced, and unworthy in respect of the efforts many thousands, millions of us make during our lives. Grow up !

Kathryn Richards
Kathryn Richards
1 year ago

You miss the point entirely. 90% (possibly more) of those receiving OBE’s etc are ordinary people who do extraordinary things. Look at the honours list published in the papers.
The whole thing does need a revamp however.
No-one should get any honour for just doing their job, or as payment of some kind, whether a civil servant OR a racing driver.

Daniel Goldstein
Daniel Goldstein
1 year ago

I don’t think he is missing the point. More that he disagrees with the system as it is, on which I feel he’s right. It doesn’t mean that we couldn’t have awards given like those in republics such as France and Germany.

Daniel Goldstein
Daniel Goldstein
1 year ago

Agree entirely. This article is just smearing Starmer based on a very narrow definition of “patriotism”.

riverscharles62
riverscharles62
1 year ago

France had had the Légion d’Honneur, an honour’s system as the name suggests, for more than 200 years during most of which it has been a republic. It has its own medals which most French people recognise and is intended to be solely meritocratic. No doubt there is some corruption at times but on the whole it works, and other countries have roughly similar honours, whether they are republics or monarchies. OBEs, CBEs KBEs etc are our equivalent. There is of course no House of Lords in France. That should be abolished.

Chris Hopwood
Chris Hopwood
1 year ago

Who was who said that the only respectable people are those that hadn’t been honoured?

Daniel Goldstein
Daniel Goldstein
1 year ago

This article is way off the mark. It’s this kind of hysterical reaction to any constitutional reform which stops our country moving forward. The honours system should be scrapped and replaced with something that doesn’t have all the silly titles like Dame, Knight, Order of the British Empire. And yes, the “trappings and add-ons” of the monarch could easily be removed, were it not for reactionaries like Henry Hill. There’s nothing “bizarre” about these proposals – what’s bizarre is the way that tabloids like The Sun and the media at large continue to treat us like babies by making reasonable changes look outlandish. The monarchy is a good example – we really out to have outgrown this fairytale institution by now. Reform is probably unthinkable while the Queen is alive, but once she goes, the debate can begin. No one is suggesting that Captain Tom would be stripped of his knighthood – merely that he didn’t need to have been a Knight of the sodding Realm! He could still have had a trinket and a ceremony. Geddit?

Ned Costello
Ned Costello
1 year ago

“Starmer is, of course, unlikely to act on the recommendations of this particular report, which was drawn up for Jeremy Corbyn.”

What a surprise.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
1 year ago

Another bizarre piece of Conservative propaganda lifted from The Sun, Henry.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
1 year ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

If the content of the report is accurately reflected here, then the Tories would be idiots not to highlight it.

It perpetuates the meme that huge chunks of Labour “hate this country” and if Starmer can’t shut them up, Labour is doomed to fail yet again …

Paul Goodman
Paul Goodman
1 year ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

“I often used to propose the abolition of the monarchy” these are Starmer’s words “lifted” from his mouth, Mark.

Bizarre for a man who wants to be PM.

Daniel Goldstein
Daniel Goldstein
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Goodman

I fail to see the connection. I’m not sure why it’s “bizarre” that he would have proposed the abolition of the monarchy. It’s quite sensible, except to people who fawn over the Queen.

Paul Goodman
Paul Goodman
1 year ago

My point is first that he is anti monarchy; it is not propaganda and second; anti monarchy is unlikely to be electorally successful because a lot of people (most perhaps) do fawn over the queen.

Daniel Goldstein
Daniel Goldstein
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Goodman

She won’t be around forever though. The report merely suggests doing away with some of the trimmings of her role. But because of the unceasing monarchist propaganda we are bombarded with, it’s highly unlikely that Starmer will propose touching anything, so worried will he and Labour high-ups be about criticising an archaic institution being taken as being “unpatriotic”. In any case – Starmer’s own personal views are his, not necessarily party policy.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
1 year ago

I actually sort of agree with this. It is an affront that so many dunderheaded public sector types collect a gong on retirement simply for having turned up to work until they could trouser the final salary pension.

But why not wrap all this and Lords reform together? We could introduce a Contributor’s Honours system whereby anyone who has paid £10 million in PAYE in their lifetime gets a Peerage and sits in the Lords scrutinizing legislation for value for money. More than £1 milllion in PAYE and you get a Sir. And so on.

Civil servants would have the value of their final salary pension pot knocked off their PAYE contributions and would be gonged accordingly, meaning mostly not.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

For once I agree with you – must be having a bad day. I read some Labour Party discussions regarding things like stopping the the Honours system and abolishing the House of Lords; do you have any idea about how that could actually happen since we don’t have a written constitution?

I argue with you because I see that Labour ideas are mostly stupid WITH the benefit of the wisdom of maturity. But I do think that almost everything Labour says will be seen as wonderful by young people. One such idea, which a lot of old people would also agree with, is the end of the House of Lords.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

A political party’s at liberty to advance any idea it likes and for which it can get a mandate. The Lords has been reformed in the past on that basis.

The idea of a revising chamber is not a bad one but having it elected is. One can hear the arguments already: “the Upper House was elected more recently than the main house so they should reject x, y or z bill” – exactly like Remainer post-Brexit arguments.

But one-in, one-out and limited to those who’ve paid a provable fortune in income tax – what’s not to like.

GA Woolley
GA Woolley
1 year ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

A rivising chamber is essential to the parliamentary process, especially when, as now, the Commons is populated with low-quality politicians, from a very narrow range of backgrounds, expertise, and experience, and the Lords is overstuffed with timeservers, has-beens, and cronies. Direct elections are not the way to reform the Lords: they’d simply result in the same old party hacks and known ‘names’.
Here’s a solution: an upper chamber of say 500, comprising perhaps 100 directly elected representatives of the regions, metropolitan areas, and rural counties; and 400 members, indirectly elected from short lists drawn up by the major professional and interest groups- health, education, defence, finance, industry, the unions, science and technology. Diversity could be generated with a quota arrangement within each group.
They would form the nucleus of parliamentary committees, ensuring a broad base of knowledge and expertise to the debates and deliberations.
All members would be elected for say 10 years, be given a reasonable salary and support etc allowance, and be required to give up all outside jobs and positions. It would be a full time job. Business would be done largely electronically, with meetings, seminars etc held around the country.
This would at a stroke improve the quality of the review and reform of HofC legislation, and give a more informed and strategic direction to major policy ideas.
In the longer term, the very obviously superior knowledge and expertise of the upper chamber would so expose the HofC’s shortcomings that the time-servers, activists, and professional politicians, who know little apart from what’s needed to get themselves re-elected, that constituencies would demand reform.

Barry Coombes
Barry Coombes
1 year ago
Reply to  GA Woolley

Sounds a bit like Salazar’s Corporative Chamber.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
1 year ago
Reply to  GA Woolley

Excellent starting position.

Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
1 year ago
Reply to  GA Woolley

I sort of like this. I do think politicians would find a way to screw it up though.

In the matter of diversity that should be easy with the trend towards self identification – you need a you need a blue Martial egg layer – no problem I’ll be that for the afternoon session!

John Nutkins
John Nutkins
1 year ago
Reply to  GA Woolley

Some very constructive proposals.

Paul Goodman
Paul Goodman
1 year ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

“It is an affront that so many dunderheaded public sector types collect a gong on retirement simply for having turned up to work until they could trouser the final salary pension”. Was this specifically aimed at Sir Kier Rodney Starmer QC?

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Goodman

He’s a classic faceless public sector bureaucrat, that’s for sure. Hilarious how he’s already falling apart after barely a year.

You know you’re second-rate when even someone as mediocre as Butcher Burnham goes on manoeuvres fancying his chances.

Chris Hopwood
Chris Hopwood
1 year ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

We already have such a system – people get honours for donations to political parties.

Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
1 year ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Strangely enough that’s pretty much the system James I & VI used.