Rod Liddle

Theresa May’s honours list makes me sick

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The BBC featured a gay wedding on Songs of Praise recently. Of course it did. The thinking was, I assume: ‘We hate this programme and wish we could get rid of it, but there would be the usual moaning from the near-dead reactionaries. So let’s rub their noses in it, instead.’ The broadcast attracted 1,200 complaints, including one from God himself, my sources tell me. God also complained, I’m told, about the programme’s failure to include the hymn ‘Onward, Christian Soldiers’, of which He is rather fond.

The BBC will not take any notice of the complaints — certainly not from God, whom the producers believe they easily outrank these days. Frankly, the complainants would have had more purchase if they’d moaned about the lack of transgender people in Songs of Praise. The next episode will almost certainly be broadcast live from the inside of an abortion clinic, with lots of vibrant women explaining how empowered they felt every time they saw a foetus being incinerated. You might think that the BBC would allow a tiny corner of its output to be free of the progressive agenda which it shoehorns in to every other programme. But nah, not a bit of it. Every single area of output must toe the line: there is no alternative.

So it was, then, with the reporting of Theresa May’s resignation honours list. Every prime minister tells the country, with great sincerity, that he or she intends to reform this emetic and insulting jamboree and every prime minister, without fail, carries right on the same as usual and hands out gongs to rich criminals who have given them money or to civil service time-servers who should have been sacked years ago, or to pensioned-off apparatchiks, sycophants and yes-men. Plus the occasional award for an ageing celebrity who, two or three years later, will have been revealed to have spent half his life with his hands down some six-year-old’s pants and the other half coked out of sentience.

May, you remember, told us that David Cameron’s decision to award a knighthood to his press monkey Craig Oliver made her ‘retch violently’. Congratulations to the woman, then, for battling down her nausea and doing exactly the same thing for her own Downing Street staff only three years later. May’s decision to award CBEs to Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill are all the more remarkable, given their utter uselessness in the jobs they performed, talented though Timothy is as a thinker. The two of them presided over the worst Conservative manifesto and election campaign in the history of the party, which led to the prime minister losing not only her entire majority but also her standing as a competent politician in the eyes of the British people.

That manifesto demanded that old people who go doolally should have their homes taken off them to pay for their care, scrapped school meals for kids, suggested there should be another vote on foxhunting, and took away winter fuel payments from the elderly. Hell, what’s not to like? The full  contents of the manifesto were not revealed even to cabinet members until an hour or so before it was launched publicly and it is probably the single biggest reason why we are in the mess we are in today.

Timothy and Hill both get CBEs for having failed on a kind of epic level. It is slightly surprising that the other architect of that forlorn and hopeless document, Ben Gummer (yes, the son of the universally adored former minister John Selwyn Gummer), didn’t cop a knighthood or something.

But even despite the absence of Ben, Theresa May has easily outdone her predecessor in the cronyism stakes. Robbie Gibb, her former press monkey, has been given a knighthood. Gavin Barwell, her chief of staff, has been elevated to the House of Lords, alongside May’s aides Stephen Parkinson, Liz Sanderson and Joanna Penn. These people were part of an unrelievedly hopeless administration, perhaps the worst we have ever endured. They do not deserve honours. They deserve to be beaten with birch sticks and made to tour the country as part of a circus freak show act. May also bunged a whole bunch of Tory donors honours, including a bloke called David Brownlow, who helped fund her personal office in Maidenhead. The hypocrisy of the woman is beyond parody.

And yet the thing that got the BBC worked up, especially the Today programme on Radio 4, was the awarding of a knighthood to the pundit and former cricketer Geoffrey Boycott. The objection to Boycott is because a quarter of a century ago he was convicted in a French court of assaulting his girlfriend — a crime he has always denied, if ineffectually. The Today programme went for Boycott hammer and tongs and, rather delightfully, Boycott gave it all back in spades (to use a term which Sir Geoffrey might indeed employ, when nobody is listening). The thinking would seem to be that while we are accustomed to forgiving crimes in general, there are some politically charged crimes which can never be forgiven, such as spousal abuse or racism, for example.

I was delighted to hear Boycott tell his interlocutor to, effectively, get stuffed, and that she had her own political agenda which he wanted no part of. You could, I suppose, make a case for saying that nobody who has ever been convicted of a crime should receive an honour, although I have never heard anybody actually advance this argument. But given a choice between Fiona Hill and Geoffrey Boycott, which one do you think would cause the general public to cavil the most?

Personally speaking, I’d scrap the whole shebang. It has become devalued to such an extent that the baubles have become worthless. I first thought this when Yasmin Alibhai-Brown was honoured — for what, God alone knows. But May’s little list is the most egregious so far. As we really should have expected.