MinderWhen Napoleon Bonaparte achieved what no self-made man in history had previously managed by usurping the old order and crowning himself Emperor of the French in 1804, he didn’t forget his family and friends now that he had ascended an unprecedented pinnacle. It had been common practice for centuries for Kings to reward their favourites with titles, but Bonaparte took this onto a new level. The numerous territories he had already conquered across Europe had all been monarchies and he therefore required them to be ruled in his name by puppet sovereigns of his own choosing; with this in mind, he solved the problem by dishing out the vacant crowns to his siblings and most trusted marshals, creating a concept of cronyism that has subsequently become more closely associated with political rather than imperial demagogues.

Harold Wilson’s so-called ‘Lavender List’, which appeared following his 1976 resignation as Prime Minister, caused controversy at the time due to the fact that many prominent businessmen who had little or no connection with either the Labour Party or traditional Labour values were handsomely rewarded – including the hardly universally-beloved James Goldsmith; and now fresh controversy has broken out with the news that David Cameron’s Resignation Honours List appears to consist of a series of gold stars for his chums and colleagues. Notable absentees from the roll-call of recipients include Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks, though even Dodgy Dave probably figured he’d never get away with that one. That the Tories desperately need an injection of peerages to prop up their dwindling numbers in the Lords also adds to the general air of dubiousness surrounding the necessity of such a questionable system.

In an age when even Her Majesty’s Birthday and New Year’s Honours respectively can rarely expect to be published without considerable criticism, it does seem something of an anachronism that the retiring Prime Minister also has the opportunity to dish out gongs and awards to people whose service to the nation was secondary to their service to the PM in question. Whereas the monarch’s Birthday Honours were only officially introduced in 1885 to mark the birthday of Queen Victoria, the Downing Street equivalent doesn’t even stretch back that far in historical terms, the practice being inaugurated upon Churchill’s eviction from No.10 in 1945, presumably as a means of marking his contribution to the War effort following his unceremonious dumping by the electorate.

Clement Attlee, a man whose great achievements in post-war office had been preceded by sterling service in the Coalition Government during the Second World War, was granted the same privilege as his predecessor (and consequent successor) in 1951, and thereafter the pattern has only been broken on five occasions. Churchill opted out of a second list upon his final retirement as PM in 1955, whereas the nature of Eden’s 1957 exit negated it; perhaps mindful of the controversy surrounding Wilson’s list, Jim Callaghan decided not to uphold the tradition in 1979, and both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown declined as well – although Blair’s decision came in the wake of the Cash for Honours scandal, so it was perhaps understandable.

The House of Lords Appointments Commission (as well as the Cabinet Office) has apparently raised ‘ethical concerns’ over Cameron’s proposed list of recipients, and though the list won’t be officially published for another few weeks, the leaks that have reached the media suggest Dave’s prime motivation was to thank those on the private payroll by placing them on the public one. Former Chief of Staff Ed Llewellyn was one of Cameron’s closest advisers from his election as PM in 2010 and is rumoured to be ordering his ermine in readiness; other insiders alleged to be up for a peerage include such household names as Chris Lockwood, Camilla Cavendish, Laura Trott and Gabby Bertin.

Knighthoods are also in the offing for some of Dave’s MP mates, as well as gongs for those who publicly supported the disastrous Remain campaign, including – inexplicably – Will Straw, son of ex-Labour Home and Foreign Secretary Jack; in case you didn’t know, Straw Junior was the man responsible for the appalling and toe-curling ‘Votin’ ad intended to persuade hedonistic youngsters to head for the polling booths, something they evidently struggled to sandwich between ‘ravin’, ‘surfin’ and ‘parachutin’ if the result of the Referendum was anything to go by.

All-in-all, the names on Cameron’s provisional list that have seeped out to the press suggest a lack of awards for people whose work has benefitted anyone other than Dave. Whilst hardly a shocking revelation, these leaks imply the moment has come to call time on an archaic and unnecessary tradition that has no place in a political world that already has its fair share of questionable honours systems. That said, Dave – if you’re reading – I wouldn’t mind an OBE if there’s any spare ones knocking about. Sorry I called you a posh twat, me old mucker.

© The Editor


9 thoughts on “THE CRONY CLUB

  1. I’ve known three ‘gongees’ closely, two OBEs and one MBE. One OBE got his for services to the Olympic movement, the other, a senior army officer, for mysterious services in sensitive areas of the world best left unspecified. Both broadly deserved, but both acquired within the conduct of their reasonably-rewarded professions – in other words, they were only doing their jobs, albeit rather well. But then my milkman does his job rather well, without any expectation of any such additional bling.
    The MBE recipient is an extraordinary ordinary bloke, who achieved huge amounts of good in his local community simply by the power of his personality, charisma and dedication. A proper gongee.

    The difference between folk like that and the ‘mate-gongs’ handed out as mere leaving-gifts by Dodgy Dave (and others) is quite stark and diminishes the value of those awarded for genuine achievement. (One may wonder whether the bizarre ‘failure’ award of the CBE to Will Straw is some sort of consolation prize for his dad, Slippery Jack, missing out through his own gross stupidity on the expected peerage after his long Commons career.)

    I’ve no problem with objective ‘national awards’ as such, but some sort of moderation is required to eliminate that blatant patronage and to ensure a degree of general credibility which does not leave worthy recipients sullied by association.

    But if/when ‘Sir Mudplugger’ and ‘Dame Windsock’ lead off the celebratory dance together, we’ll all know that we really are heading for Hell in a handcart.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Shrewd point re Straw Senior, Sir Mudplugger. I remember Billy Connolly once advocating peerages being like jury service, a virtual lottery where anyone from any walk of life is picked to sit in the Lords for a period of twelve months. Would be interesting and would justify the existence of at least one segment of an honours system far too open to abuse to continue on its current path.


      1. Alongside the undeserving ‘crony’ recipients, I might agree, but even in my rare, less-modest moments, I wouldn’t seek to compare myself with those really worthy recipients of knightoods and damehoods who have genuinely changed the world for the better.
        The problem is that the current measure seems to be ‘those who have only changed Cameron’s world for the better’ which demeans the whole system.


  2. Politicians are always more likeable when they have retired (i.e been removed from high office and the perks, kicking and screaming) and so I was more relaxed about “call me Dave” after his goodbye speech. But his honour’s speech reminded me why I hate the tosser so much. Mean, vindictive, out of touch, selfish, arrogant, a member of the Notting Hill Set that has no understanding of or respect for the ordinary people of this country. On that note, but slightly off at a tangent, I read a piece by the veteran hard left journalist John Pilger this week. Over the years I have disagreed with almost every word he has said or penned. However, on that piece about Brexit and why the plebs voted the way they did and why Cameron, the BBC and their ilk are so livid about it, I agreed with every word. Here is a link

    Sir Gildas the Monk, OBE

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Although it pre-dates him, I credit Pilger for summarising his travels in the Far East by using the phrase “Happiness is a dry fart” – so much meaning, so few words.

        Liked by 1 person

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