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Sunday, January 01, 2012

Honourable mention

As the only person in Britain, apparently, who genuinely doesn't care whether Russell Brand gets divorced or not, I ended up buying the Sunday Times at the petrol station on the way home. It is full of depressing stories -- HBOS bad debts approaching £60 billion while the guy in charge of racking them up has retired on a £344,000 per annum pension, and that sort of thing -- but the one I settled on was the one about the New Year's Honours.

David Cameron faced an honours row today after it emerged at least four Conservative Party donors were given awards in the New Years list.

[From Cameron faces New Year honours row as four Conservative donors are given awards | Mail Online]

I'm using the Daily Mail link because the Sunday Times link is behind a paywall. But the point is that it's time we had a more open and transparent Honours system instead of the current system of handing out honours to speculators who correctly guessed "heads" and then split the loot with the governing party, near-randomly selected "ordinary people", some deserving cases of people who've done a lot for charity and celebrities who are friends of the elite. So I propose setting honours tariffs. A tariff of X means that you have to either have paid X in income tax or donated X to registered charities to qualify. But where to set the thresholds?

I think it was P.J. O'Rourke who said that the biggest contribution that the average person can make to society is to get a job, and he is surely correct. So therefore, the honour tariff should be set so that the first step on the ladder of honours should be above this basic threshold. Fifty years at work on the average salary means about a million quid of income, so let's say £300,000 in tax and national insurance (i.e., tax). So set the first rung on the ladder, the CBE, at £500K. Once you've paid £500K in tax or donated £500K to charity, then you get a CBE. Say a million for an OBE.

Obviously, at higher levels, the number of honours should be smaller and the club more exclusive, so it should take £100 million to get into the House of Lords.

The merit of my system is that everyone can see exactly where they are in the great scheme of things and that if property developers or currency speculators or famous actresses want to get honours then they will have to pay the tax or make the donations in the UK and then we call all applaud them for their contributions. I'm not sure why someone should get an honour for being a dinner lady or whatever for 50 years, because having a job for most of your working life should be the minimum we expect from people, right?

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]


Neil McEvoy said...

I propose a dishonour system, whereby in return for a tax rebate, you get initials after your name which are moderately defamatory, e.g. a £10k/year rebate gets a tag of BBE (B@st@rd of the British Empire).

GreatSheElephant said...

that does rather penalise people who do good works though afavour those who do the very opposite, both because salaries are a lot lower in the 3rd sector and because of voluntary work. I'd far rather see Camilla Batmancan'tspellorpronounceit get an honour than Bob Diamond.