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Old 14th Jul 2004, 10:10   #1
pandop
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Are any of us any where near as bothered about this as that mad committee seems to be?

What is it with this government and British Tradition? Why are they so keen on breaking (sorry modernising) things that no one is really offended by - instead of actually pulling their finger out and running the country?

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Old 14th Jul 2004, 20:16   #2
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The honours system is a pretty good form of corruption. "Do us a favour (or toe the line) and you'll get an honour". The whole thing should just be scrapped. There's a few celebraty awards, but far more go to "captains of industry", civil servants, arms dealers, ex-politicians and the like. However I agree that there are probably more important things on the agenda - however a government should be capable of multitasking, they employ enough people to do so.

No government in my memory bothered running the country (well), they spend their time merely propping up their own interests and attempting to get an increasingly disinterested electorate to put it back in power every four years or so - the rest of the time that electorate can go to hell (even at election time it's merely a cosmetic nod to some popularised interests). The current government is merely the latest in what has been an increasing trend, and I don't see that changing for the next government (in whatever form it takes).
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Old 14th Jul 2004, 20:17   #3
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It just irritates me that they are so bothered about it all

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Old 14th Jul 2004, 20:25   #4
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Fair enough and I can see your point (I feel the same about other things). It's the problem with people focusing on single issues. They're simply looking at the honours system, thus magnifying what is actually a minor part of the whole problem. When that happens it can make trivial issues seem rather overblown and make the people concerned look a little petty.

One problem is that sometimes those people, or other interested parties push what may only be a minor interest to further their cause. the tunnel vision of the media helps them, but magnifies the affect.


(That was a rather ugly way of putting it, but I hope it makes sense)
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Old 14th Jul 2004, 20:26   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Julian Baggini in today's Guardian
As a rule of thumb, if something is attacked as being an example of "political correctness gone mad", assume it is a good thing until proven otherwise. After the news broke about the proposed change of the OBE to the Order of British Excellence rather than the Empire, it didn't take long for the first person to complain on the BBC website that this was "yet more left wing bunkum from the PC brigade". At least one reason to think it a thoroughly good idea then.

It is true that the Order of British Excellence sounds a little daft and contrived. But how sensible did the Order of the Bath sound when it was first proposed? Did no one think that the Order of the Companions of Honour was a bit of a meaningless mouthful?

The proposed change seems to me to be a splendid example of another great British tradition: evolution by compromise and fudge. This way we get to keep the OBE but lose the reference to empire which so many find offensive. The fact that the change will also annoy just the sort of person who has no respect for the feelings of many people with historic ties to the lands we colonised is simply a bonus.
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Old 15th Jul 2004, 9:34   #6
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Which is another reason not to approve ... The Guardian does!

I have been thinking about this, and what I most object to is the way that they go after these traditions because the are 'old fashioned', 'discriminatory', 'elitist', whatever, and have no idea what to pu in their place.

They haven't even sorted out what they are doing with The House of Lords yet

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Old 15th Jul 2004, 10:55   #7
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First we need to determine what is meant by "they" (as "they go after these traditions..."). The proposed reforms of the honours system are not a government policy but a report from a cross-party group of MPs.

As for the terms 'old fashioned,' 'discriminatory' and 'elitist,' I'm not sure where these quotes come from as I browsed through most of the report (here) and couldn't see them. Of course an honours system by definition must be discriminatory, ie discriminate between people to honour some and not others, and in that sense elitist too as it is aimed at rewarding those who excel in some public service or other - which could be one definition of an elite.

Certainly the system is old fashioned but I would counsel against the retention of something simply because it is well established (which the Committee found was the main argument from those who submitted opinions wanting the system retained as it is untouched), just as much as I would oppose changing something for the sake of it to make it New.

In any event the honours system has regularly undergone significant changes to reflect changing society as the Committee found:

Quote:
By the mid eighteenth century, the British system of honours was both elaborate and restricted. In ascending order of precedence, it consisted of knights bachelor, the Order of the Bath, the Order of the Thistle, the Order of the Garter, baronets (essentially hereditary knighthoods) and peers (in five levels, ascending from baron to viscount to earl to marquess to duke). This was an exclusive and hierarchical system, which recognized and supported aristocratic authority and military prowess. Knighthoods were not hereditary; baronetcies and peerages were.

Since then, the British honours system has undergone two great phases of elaboration and re-invention. The first (and lesser) was from the 1780s to the 1810s, which saw the creation of the Order of St Patrick for Ireland (matching the Thistle for Scotland and the Garter or England), the extension of the Order of the Bath for military service in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars against France, and the creation of the Order of St Michael and St George. This was still, essentially, an aristocratic cum military system, partly hereditary, partly not.

The second (and greater) phase of expansion lasted from the last quarter of the nineteenth century until the First World War, and witnessed the creation of a much more complex system, which was imperial rather than national, and (in some areas at least) was open to a much wider spread of the population.
The OBE itself is less than a century old, having been created in 1917 and was intended for services connected with the First World War. John Major in his evidence to the Committee told how he had changed his view since 1993, when he could "see no advantage or purpose in changing the Order of the British Empire." Now he says:

Quote:
Although that argument still has force I believe it is now out of date. In order to remove one of the persistent criticisms of the system, I would now be inclined to propose an "Order of British Excellence" with Awards at the level of Companion (i.e. CBE), Order (OBE) and Member (MBE). This is minimum change for maximum effect. It retains the familiar abbreviations whilst removing reference to an Empire that no longer exists. It does have an awkwardness with Northern Ireland, but no more so than now.
But the main complaint about the current system according to the Committee is that too many honours are restricted to civil servants, diplomats and so on who are awarded them for no reason other than appointment to or long service at a particular post. It is this "automaticity" (John Major's cumbersome term) - as prevalent now as it was in the late 70s when the recently repeated episode of Yes, Minister entitled "Doing the Honours" was first shown - which I believe is the main engine behind change.

The Government has not in fact responded to the report yet so we have no idea whether it will be implemented in full, in part or not at all.
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Old 15th Jul 2004, 12:11   #8
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The words were mine. But they are often bandied about by politician, lobbyist types, and anyone who has an agenda against a certain thing.

Yes honours are discriminatory, and I feel that is one reason why they may be under threat - do not forget it is only as a result of growing levels of child obesity that this goverment is moving away from the 'all shall have prizes' mentality, and realising that competition can have a role. The same applies in education - I was incredibly lucky to have been at school before the worst of this happened, and was therefore encouraged to do the best that I could. Friends of mine, however, were discouraged from reading ahead, as it would make the other children feel bad!

Certain elements in the government and some left wing groups and media outlets do feel that any form of elitism is wrong (except for themselves of course) and this leads to complaints about selection in schools, the desire for more and more people to go to university (whether they want to or not) - and those regular headlines about so-and-so not getting into Oxbridge!

Oh - and there was a good suggestion in The Telegraph (I think) today, that an Order of the Commonwealth could be formed, as this would emphasise our ties with those countries. I think this could work (although I do feel the need to add, if the Empire was so bad, why do so many countries want to stay in the Commonwealth, and there has been at least one country who was not in the Empire that has asked to join)

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Old 15th Jul 2004, 12:18   #9
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The Empire and the Commonwealth are not the same things.

Why have any honours? What's the point? They exist as I said merely as a method of corruption. Of course, if it's suggested in the Telegraph, it's a very good reason not to like the idea :wink:
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Old 15th Jul 2004, 12:28   #10
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Yes I know that the Empire and the Commonwealth are not the same things, but the later did grow out of the former.

Just because something is corrupt in it's application, does not mean that it should be abolished (see the UN conversation) but that it does need reformation. You could keep exactly the same honours, and award them less corruptly just as easily as you could change the system and honours and apply them just as corruptly - if that makes sense

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