Bill Carmichael: The dishonour of David Cameron’s cronyism

Samantha Cameron with her stylist Isabel Spearman who is at the centre of the latest honours controversy.
Samantha Cameron with her stylist Isabel Spearman who is at the centre of the latest honours controversy.
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SO David Cameron’s final act as Prime Minister is to drag the already besmirched British honours system through the smelliest, foulest part of the mire?

According to a leaked list now made official, honours are to be liberally sprinkled amongst various complete nonentities, including the woman who styled Samantha Cameron’s hair and the collection of prize idiots behind Remain’s disastrous Project Fear campaign, who somehow managed to lose a referendum they were odds on favourites to win.

The stink of the whole mess – including the bloated, undemocratic House of Lords – is now so rank that the only solution is flush out the entire nauseating midden and start afresh.

This is a great pity, because there are decent people who receive honours from the Queen every year for selfless acts of service within their communities.

Indeed, that is the whole point of an honours system – to recognise people who go above and beyond their duty to serve their country and fellow citizens. You should not receive an honour merely for doing a job you have already been paid for – often handsomely.

But, over the years, the system has been utterly corrupted by generations of politicians who have used it to reward all manner of cronies, crooks, timeservers, rich party donors and preening pop celebrities.

In recent years, sad to say, the cast list of I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here has carried more gravitas than the New Year’s Honours list.

Now Cameron has added his foul contribution to this pile of ordure and it is hard to see how the system can ever regain any degree of credibility.

This matters because ordinary, decent people – who actually deserve some official recognition – are tarred with the same brush as the shysters and political hacks. If you hear someone has been awarded an OBE you are unsure whether it is a reward for 50 years unpaid service to local charities, or it is because some filthy rich Cameron crony has bunged a few quid to the Remain campaign.

As for the House of Lords – an important and powerful part of our legislature – it has become nothing short of an international embarrassment, and not simply because of the widespread expenses fiddling and influence peddling.

At 826 members – and rising every year – it is the second largest legislative chamber in the world after the Chinese People’s Congress.

In contrast, the upper chamber in the US bi-cameral system – the Senate – makes do with just 100 members, making laws for a population five times the size of Britain’s. If the US can manage with a much slimmer, much more democratic system then why can’t we?

The House of Lords costs an eye-watering £87m a year of taxpayers’ cash to run – largely thanks to hundreds of members turning up to claim their £300-a-day allowance and make use of the heavily subsidised restaurants and bars. In the last Parliament, £360,000 was claimed by peers who didn’t even bother to vote.

Some peers have effectively bought seats in the House of Lords in a way that would make the notoriously corrupt David Lloyd George blush with shame.

The case for reform – first begun over 100 years ago – is now unanswerable. We have just voted to free ourselves from a corrupt, unelected, unaccountable European Commission. Isn’t about time we also freed ourselves from a corrupt, unelected, unaccountable House of Lords too?

The whole lot needs to be swept away and replaced with an elected second chamber. Only then can we count ourselves as a proper representative democracy.

As for the rest of the honours system, politicians should be stripped of any role in terms of nominations and recommendations. Civil servants – even the most senior – should no longer receive honours for simply doing the job they are paid for. Politicians should no longer be garlanded for years of docile mediocrity.

Instead members of the public should be encouraged to nominate deserving individuals to an entirely independent, politically neutral panel that should consider cases according to transparent and clear criteria, before making recommendations to the Queen.

Only then will an honour become what it should be – a recognition by the Monarch of selfless service to country and community – rather than what they are rapidly becoming: badges of shame.