Mo Farah with two Olympic golds didn't come up to scratch for a knighthood - but Ursula Brennan, a Whitehall mandarin who "delivered a balanced budget and led a radical overhaul of safety
management" with the MoD, did. Even the bloke on the civil service panel that recommends honours secured himself an MBE. It was, in other words, just the usual New Years Honours list, with all the tastiest truffles snaffled up by civil servants.
Post-Blair and his cash-for-gongs scam, politicians have lost much of their former say in how the trinkets are handed out. At a time when party funds are strained to the extreme, donors are asking "What, fifty grand and I don't even get the same as a twenty-year Head of Geography at the local comp?". Politicians want to wrest control back from the mandarins, they are using Mo Farah as an excuse to swing more of the trinkets to their political supporters. The mandarins are fighting a rear-guard action, pointing out that only 1 in 11 gongs go to home civil servants.
It's all a bit academic for those of us down on site. I can't remember when the construction industry last saw an MBE for 'services to scaffolding'. Still, of the 29.6m of us Brits currently in work, only 1.68% are home civil servants - yet they get over 9% of the awards. The mandarins' statement that "We reject the criticism that the government hand out gongs to people for long service. All honours are given to people on their own individual merits. There is no rubber stamping." must therefore mean that those 498,000 civil servants are some six times more naturally meritorious than the rest of us. Well, that puts us in our place.
With the only honours that can be regarded with honour being the CH and the MVO, both beyond the sticky fingers of mandarins or politicians, the argument between them is two bald men fighting over a comb. So why not just be honest and set a tariff for the rest?
KCB / DCB £100k or Permanent Secretary for 5 years
KBE / DBE £75k or Grade 2/3 for 7 years
CB £50k or Grade 3/7 for 5 years
CBE £40k or SEO / HEO for 10 years
OBE £30k or any grade for >20 years
MBE £20k or any grade >15 years
At least this way my good mate 'skippy' the scaffold king, who drives a Bentley already, can buy himself an honest CBE to wear at the local Rotarians meeting without having to befoul himself by touching politicians, whom he loathes as much as I do.
Well, how about it?