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Friday, 3 January, 2003, 16:51 GMT
New Year honours: Are they still relevant?
The parents of murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence are among those rewarded in the Queen's New Year honours list.
Neville and Doreen Lawrence each receive an OBE for services to community relations.
Other household names in the list published on Tuesday include sportsmen Steve Backley and Jonny Wilkinson, screen star Alan Bates, actresses Brenda Blethyn and Jean Simmons, and comedian Jasper Carrott.
There are also a series of awards for those who worked towards the successes of the Commonwealth Games in Manchester and the Golden Jubilee celebrations.
But how important is the Honours list? Are the awards still relevant?
Thank you for your e-mails. This debate is now closed. A selection of your comments is published below.
Tim Rollinson, UK
A totally outdated practice. We are now in the year 2003, not 1603. These New Year honours are just a part of the political game.
Of course they should be retained.
They provide the following opportunities:
Politicians to patronise the "ordinary common folk" and show that they are at one with them. Politicians to bestow favours on colleagues for past favours. Politicians to cosy up to businessmen and corporations - they have future careers to nurture. Royal patronage - words fail on this.
Simon Moore, UK
Why are so many of the 'great and the good' still included? There are still far too many 'professional committee men' and too few doers. When there are more nurses giving 25 years continuous and exceptional service in the NHS and no NHS bureaucrats on the list, we'll know - to coin a Blairite phrase - it's a 'people's honours system'.
I can never understand why knighthoods are given to news
readers and company chairmen. They are only doing their jobs
for which they already get paid very well.
In response to CG of the UK regarding what a lady in waiting does. She waits for honours to be bestowed!
I think it's just another way of getting people to support the Queen's ideology. I notice the majority who support the honours system are from the UK. Listen to the rest of the indigenous people who want justice not your recognition.
I agree with many of the comments made in respect of the honours list. It should be overhauled, but it is a way to reward people. Sadly, when it is used by political parties for their gain it makes the award meaningless.
Unfortunately there will be thousands of people who go 'unhonoured' every year who deserve public recognition for their lives. This, however, should not be a reason to abandon the list. Western society is guilty of 'criticism culture' in which we make ourselves feel better by passing judgement on others. The honours list provides a nice balance to this.
Unfortunately political parties have bought the honours system into complete disrepute by giving away honours for cash donations and political influence.
Michael Barratt, UK
The Honours system is a sham. Giving them to relatives of murder victims and vicars is unfair to all the other victims you don't include. Although our hearts go out to such people, there are many people who do deserve them, like the man who helped the Jewish children, but why did he have to wait so long to get recognition? I feel it is time to start thinking truly about what these people did to deserve such an award and not to hand them out because these were high profile stories in the papers.
The Lawrences rightly deserve their award, for they have done a lot to minimise the impact on the black community that arose from Stephen's murder. The murder was not an attack on an individual but an attack on a "race" or a group of people.
Society does need to recognise service and achievement. Most who receive them do not expect or work for them, but get them for a job well done. It is Britain's way of thanking them and recognising what they have done. The Honours system is the best way of doing this.
Despite my generally Republican leanings, I honestly can't see what harm the Honours do. So what if the monarchy use it for a bit of propaganda? The people who get it enjoy it, and those that don't want it can refuse it. It's a win-win situation.
By all means, honour those that deserve recognition. The current 'awards' seem to lean towards celebrities (who may or may not deserve recognition), but this emphasis detracts from other, less well known people. By rewarding goodness and virtue, the Queen's awareness will continue to inspire our nation, if done correctly and objectively.
Like most awards, the New Year Honours are probably of most relevance to those who receive them. They're a quirky and harmless piece of British New Year tradition. They don't do any harm and as they give the Queen something to do on a rainy afternoon, why not leave them alone?
Regardless of the various views expressed thus far, it seems to me that one can hardly argue the issue of relevance. For good or bad, it seems that many find the issue at least relevant enough to comment on. Even the people against the idea of Royal Honours do not seem to hold their views over a question of relevance, but rather one of propriety. Less the idea of the list than the contents.
Honours are supposed to be awarded to those who have helped others less fortunate than themselves, or those who have made some grievous personal sacrifice in the name of their people or country. Most honours given out are not deserved - actors and sportsmen are already handsomely paid for their trade, as are media moguls, civil servants and lawyers.
Highly paid, highly visible, highly famous or infamous and now highly honoured, why? What about all the people who are on minimum wage providing a real service who will never reach even most of these peoples Christmas card list.
When 'awards' are given not for what you do but for who you are, as in the case of the Lawrences, they have become meaningless.
Other countries seem to do well without such systems. Many awards are merely doing a job for a long time, who cares? This is just a Royal Christmas game.
John B, UK
The honours system is a way for the nation to give people a pat-on-the-back and say well-done and thank you for what you have done. We don't have to have an honours system - we could always just seek out these people and shake them by the hand and say "thank you". I say, keep the honours system no matter how corny and out-dated it may seem - this is the way the nation shakes these peoples hands to say "Thank you".
David Wren, Canada
If the New Years Honours means being recognized merely because you are famous, then I would say, no they aren't relevant anymore; on the other hand, if people are recognized because of work they have done to benefit others, then I would say yes, keep up the good work.
I think there should be a national system of recognition for ordinary citizens who accomplish extraordinary feats or make a difference either in their own communities or to humanity. And indeed some honours should be graded because not all accomplishments are the same. However, handing out gongs for cliquish or political reasons simply undermines and discredits the entire system and indeed I can see why some people turn them down.
There is a place in our way of life for awards of the kind currently called the "Queen's" honours list. The example of everyday unsung heroes and heroines should be made public to give the rest of us something to aspire to. However, a third of Brits are now estimated to have republican views. The inclusion of a reference to the royal family in the title of the Honours list is becoming less and less relevant as time goes by. When shall we drop the reference?
It has always seemed to me that famous people get honours just for being famous and I'm not sure one has to be particularly good at anything or work hard to be famous. We all know people deserving of awards that will never be considered for one because they're just not well known.
It is right and proper that people are rewarded with an honour for work within the community and work extra to that expected. I would, however, question whether people should receive an honour for doing their normal work - and particularly professional sports people and entertainers. We still have the 'Order of the British Empire' - what Empire? - this should be changed - perhaps to 'The Order of Great Britain'.
Recognition of outstanding achievement is always important. But it's a shame that hereditary honours are now rarely granted. It serves to make the aristocracy more exclusive, rather than inclusive - which was always the English aristocracy's greatest strength. There are also vast oversights. For instance, the father of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, has a CBE. On any scale of values, a dukedom would probably be more appropriate!
Others may disagree but I think the honours system is an excellent way of rewarding achievement. Of course the great and the good still get their knighthoods but the system has been modernised and includes those who really contributed. Britain has always had a monarch and British monarchs have always distributed honours. It's part of our history and our heritage and I hope it continues. It's what makes us special in the world.
The 'honours' system gets less and less important as the years go by. Like the monarchy, it's archaic, irrelevant and should have been scrapped a long time ago.
Of course the Honours System is still relevant. Almost every country honours its prominent citizens. What on earth is wrong with recognising achievement? The honours mean a lot to most of those who receive them and do no harm to anyone else apart from the whingers who would like to change everything that is traditional and good in this country. What exactly is the harm in the system? No doubt some will say that knighthoods and the Order of the British Empire are outdated. Why? Because they originate in the past? We should be proud of our history, not continually seeking to deny it or change it, a policy that would be familiar to totalitarian regimes throughout the world. Long may the Honours System survive!
The question should not be "Are the New Years Honours still relevant?", but "Is the Monarchy still relevant?". How can we seriously support a Queen who awards an MVO to her Royal Bargemaster? So nice to see that he is clearly ranked higher in Royal society than so many nameless teachers, doctors and nurses. Who says the Queen is out of touch in her Jubilee Year?!
The new years honours list & other awards have become a corrupt irrelevance particularly when in the gift of politicians. Probably only the CH & OM have any real value now. In my field of medicine the honours system distorts the real priorities leaders of the profession should follow as they fawn to powers of the time and put political considerations in front of those of the patients & NHS. The sooner the whole phoney edifice is pulled down the better and more power to people like Albert Finney & others who have had the courage & principle to resist it.
31 Dec 02 | UK
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