It must have been so much easier in the days of the Knights of the Round Table – fabled or otherwise.
You did a spot of jousting, slayed a few dragons, rescued virgins, hunted for the Holy Grail and then tucked into suckling pig and, if King Arthur was having a dawn druid’s meeting with Merlin, enjoyed bacon in bed with Guinevere next morning.
These days, to win a knighthood or damehood, you’ve got to be good at what you’ve trained to be good at – be that sport, or politics or entertainment.
Of course, if you have helped mastermind a successful election campaign it shows what a very good sport you are.
Then there are knights who make people laugh but throw in charity work too – as in arise Sir Lenny Henry, as opposed to Ken Dodd.
Doddy’s lack of a knighthood is beyond a joke.
It makes me see red each year, although I doubt Labour would do much of a reshuffle – judging by the way a seat at top table has been lost to those who disagreed with comrade Corbyn.
So there I was scanning the New Year honours list – letting out a cheer when I spotted deserving local names in the MBE list.
I looked, as I always do, for Doddy in the knighthoods. No sign. I bemoaned this via social media and one of my contacts helpfully pointed out – because it’s not as if I’m a journalist and follow the news – that Doddy had blotted his copybook.
He was acquitted of tax evasion charges back in the late 80s, m’lud. A more cynical observer might argue that the merest hint of tax evasion, substantiated or otherwise, seems almost a pre-requisite to join the social hierarchy these days.
Back in 1989, Ken had the late great libel lawyer George Carman on side, formerly of this parish. Carman mused memorably that “some accountants are comedians, but comedians are never accountants”. Barristers are always great theatre.
A year later Jimmy Savile got a knighthood, in spite of qualms about the nature of his proclivities at the time. Allegations against Savile – and as with Rochdale’s former MP Sir Cyril Smith it was something of an open secret – spanned six decades, starting in 1955. You’d think someone would have passed HM the red pen.
Nor can we strip Savile or Smith of those knighthoods posthumously because the Cabinet Office, in a triumph of Yes Prime Minister-speak, states the right to the title dies with the recipient, so you can’t rescind an honour from the dead. Tell that to the memorial makers painstakingly chipping ‘Sirs’ on to headstones. Sorry, he’s no longer entitled to the title. He’s plain Mr from now on.
At least Rolf Harris was stripped of his CBE.
Fortunately more women are making the honours list this year – even if there’s no truly compelling reason for some to be there. A CBE goes to Jacqueline Gold, chief executive of the Ann Summers empire, who argues she’s given financial independence to 350,000 women during her career.
I’m no prude, but who would have thought the sales of nipple clamps, erotic lingerie and rampant what-nots, would be so... empowering?
Although you could argue Ms Gold is already the definitive lady of the garter.
This brings me to Dame Babs, newcomer to the definitive House of Windsor. I appreciate she’s a National Treasure with her Carry On bra pinging, Old Vic landlady and irritating bingo advert.
But she’s also described the Krays as “real gentlemen.” They were murderous thugs. One victim was left impaled to the floor. I doubt they offered him a cuppa first.
Vacuous celebrities, contrived controversy, cronyism – it’s the rot at the heart of our honours system. Noblesse oblige. With privilege comes responsibility.
A charity effort that’s worthy of a thank-you card
I recycled my Christmas cards at Sainsbury’s on Twelfth Night.
This Christmas, now past, was the first time I hadn’t bought cards at the pop-up charity shop Cards for Good Causes in the town centre.
Blackpool woman Kathleen Smith (pictured right) ran the shop for 28 years. It was manned entirely by volunteers.
Mayoress Maxine Callow noticed it missing before Christmas, and told me as we both used to shop there. Kath has called it a day after 28 years of having to shunt the shop from pillar to post, find volunteers and hope customers followed and enough cards were sold to make it worthwhile.
You can still buy the cards online at www.cardsforcharity.co.uk, but it’s not the same as seeing Kath – she’s a bit of card herself.
The Blackpool shop raised £200k for the various causes over those 28 years. Now THAT’S worth a thank you card…