Ross Clark Ross Clark

Cronyism isn’t great, but it’s better than corruption

If there was any remaining doubt that David Cameron’s resignation honours list was drawn up shamelessly to reward political flunkies it was removed this morning by Desmond Swayne, or Sir Desmond Swayne as we are now supposed to call him following the knighthood bestowed on him in the New Year’s honours. Sir Desmond said:

‘The reason we have a resignation honours list is because over a period of government, particularly difficult government in a coalition, a prime minister has to cajole and get the support of a number people and he builds up a debt of honour.

‘I think that frankly an honours list is a relatively light way of paying it off. I think we get far too excited about these things.’

That is pretty definite, then: Desmond is now Sir Desmond because he is a pathetic ‘yes’ man who has spent the past decade nodding in agreement with his boss. That is the polite way of putting it. Others might say it is an award for having his nose a very long way up David Cameron’s backside. To use Private Eye’s terminology, Sir Desmond has been awarded not so much a KBE as the OBN, the Order of the Brown Nose.

My first reaction is to say that the honours system is beyond saving. If it ever did have any integrity, it has long-since been reduced to barefaced cronyism. The attempt to disguise this by inserting a few lollipop ladies among the flunkies and donors has worn rather thin.

But then Sir Desmond does have a point. Bestowing honours on your cronies is a relatively harmless way of dealing with something which will always be endemic in any political system.

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