Is the honours system corrupt?

Sam Rowe investigates the murky world of decorations and knighthoods

At the time these words are being punched into a MacBook Air, Her Majesty the Queen’s birthday honours list is still moist with ink. And as is traditional by this point, the media and society at large are passing judgement on the 1,149 individuals recognised – their virtues and foibles examined with the forensic eye of a crime scene investigator – ultimately giving a thumbs up or down en masse. It’s the Roman colosseum for our digital age. Or perhaps a hint to a future, Hunger Games-ish dystopia.

For anyone keeping score, 71-year-old Rod Stewart’s knighthood – for services to music and charity – is ‘well deserved’ (or so says Lord Sugar) and ‘long overdue’ (Piers Morgan). Tim Peake – the first person to be announced for an honour while 220 miles above Earth – scored a CMG (Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George, obviously), to the wide-eyed applause of those on terra firma. There were also OBEs for Ant and Dec (‘This will definitely be the proudest our mams have ever been’) a CBE for Alan Shearer and British Empire Medal (BEM) for 21-year-old apprentice Gary Doyle, following a vocational championship in Sao Paulo that crowned him the planet’s foremost plumber.

Of course, not all recipients escaped unscathed. The naming of Richard Reed – founder of smoothie merchants, Innocent, and deputy chairman of Britain Stronger in Europe – as a CBE, alongside 21 other pro-EU figures, led to swift and venomous accusations of institutional cronyism. A ‘shabby stitch-up’ that was ‘bordering on the corrupt,’ barked Vote Leave’s Gisela Stuart during the death-throes of the Brexit mudslinging.

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