David Beckham’s apparent fury at being denied a knighthood, allegedly on the specious grounds that HMRC (that, for the benefit of American readers, is Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) in 2014 uncovered a dodgy tax avoidance scheme, is perfectly understandable. Many lesser mortals than our David are called Sir; thousands of them, in fact, most for doing something far less useful to earn a living than kicking a football around, or for having the good sense to marry a Spice Girl.
Mrs. Beckham, by the way, last year received an Order of the British Empire, for putting the savings from her pop music career into a fashion business. Before you titter, let me point out that in both enterprises she brought great credit, and presumably great profit, to the aforementioned Empire.
The whole honours system is a peculiar British anachronism, one of unlikely durability. Like The Mousetrap on the West End stage, which no one I’ve ever met in its sixty year run has actually seen. It ignores outbursts of public outrage that the whole silly honours business is corrupt, or the often recited opinion that it has hardly made sense since King Arthur regularly promoted his Round Table companions, or the charge that it survives today only as a self-serving plaything of the elitist political – that is, Tory – establishment.
David’s complaint about his rebuff came to light after emails he sent to his agent were hacked. I have no idea what other alleged indiscretions David committed in the 1.8 millions of his emails that have been lifted, but the one that I read about sounds more than enough to kill his dream of imperial glory, even if his tax affairs have not done so already. In it he is reported to have called the government committee that awards knighthoods and other so-called gongs “a bunch of cunts”.
Well played, David! That should secure you a few votes at the next committee meeting, though not, I imagine, the kind you’re looking for.
David’s assessment of the panel is no doubt correct. Most of us knew it already – or have at least suspected it. I mean, who with a scintilla of self-respect would stoop so low as to earn a futile living at taxpayer’s expense helping to decide who should get what in recognition for services to the nation, in whatever field or enterprise?
Me, for a start.
What a marvellous, unstressed job it must be – like being a judge at a village vegetable show, but without having to show up to ask old Mr. Snodgrass, manager of the post office, the secret of growing giant marrows.
But, seriously, on what basis does anyone deserve royal recognition, whether for preserving bats, or stage acting, or beating the Chinese at ping pong, or merely for having made a large pile of moolah and giving a half of one per cent of it to charity?
I do, for a start.
I have to confess: I’ve been quietly lobbying for a senior award for some years now. Not a knighthood, mind – even though my wife would no doubt love to be addressed as Lady Martha – just an Order of the British Empire or something equivalent. Even a Member of the British Empire would do. I am, after all, a member by birth.
Yes I know, I know, the British Empire no longer exists. That’s why I said up front that handing out awards is a silly anachronism. Which is what every sensible Briton thinks – or at least every one who has never got anything, and so never had the opportunity to dress up for a visit to Buckingham Palace, there to meet Prince Charles in the throne room and be asked, in effect, “Since I don’t actually know why I’m giving this to you, would you mind telling me what it is that you actually do?”
I would love to be asked such a question. That would allow me to reply, “Beats the hell out of me, Your Highness. I just came for the cream tea. I take it there is a cream tea.”
If you’re silently wondering the same thing as Prince Charles, let me give you just one example of my services to Empire. I once went into a bar in New York City on St. Patrick’s Day, stood on a table, and sang Rule Britannia. Admittedly I only got as far as “When Britain first ….” but that doesn’t distract from the brave intent.
And I can cite many another example of my patriotic fervour.
And at least I’ve never fiddled my taxes.