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Home > Media

The CBE Jeebies

24 June 2006

Poor Rolf Harris.

A life-time spent painting the Queen, tying kangaroos down and breaking new ground with songs about little boys, and what does he get to show for it? A CBE and the thanks of a grateful nation, that's what.

How gutted, then, must he be feeling to hear that the Met's Assistant Commissioner Andy Hayman received the same award, and all he had to do was go out and shoot somebody in Forest Gate? If we were in his koala-skin boots we'd be so angry we'd be hardly be able to wobble our wobble-board.

Rolf Harris is a man who has suffered for his art. Do you really think he wanted to go through life as Jake the Peg? What sane man would? In the name of entertaining the masses, this is a man who would sit up until the small hours, personally sticking stunt kittens up trees and shoving swans down drain culverts just to illustrate the innate kindness of the human condition. And what? They go and give a gong to Constable Savage.

Our advice to Rolf is this: get yourself tooled up, man. Yes, you've had a fulfilling life making people happy. You've got a lovely big house by the Thames; but the going rate for a knighthood appears to be a rampage through the streets of Maidenhead with a chainsaw. It is at times like this that society should cast all this trivia about sex offenders and terrorism to one side and ask the question that matters: 'How many people would Rolf Harris have to bump off to get a knighthood?'

Obviously, we're not talking Shipman-esque levels of slaughter, just a few carefully targeted assassinations, Mossad-style, for which those blue-sky thinkers at Number Ten might make the right noises come Her Majesty's next birthday. We're not asking much. Littlejohn. Goody. Blunt. Public Service Killings, and it's incredible what a ninja-clad Harris can do with a sharpened paint brush.

'Can you tell what it is yet?'

'Yes. Yes, it's the still-twitching corpse of Jim Davidson OBE.'

Naturally, this honours thing is nothing if not a huge conspiracy theory, backed up with not a jot of rock-hard evidence whatsoever. If there really was a whole system of rewarding blazing incompetence in establishment figures, wouldn't they be elevating, say, the worst, least popular, director-general of the BBC to the House of Lords and giving him the run of Number Ten as comedy relief for Alastair Campbell? *Lord* Birt, you say? Well, there you go, then.

So, we are forced to ask: are the honours relevant? We're going to go out on a limb here and say a big, fat 'yes'. Yes they are. For they fulfil an important job, that of allowing ranting newspaper columnists to write the same piece twice a year, dismissing the whole apparatus as an outdated throwback to an Empire based on old colonial aggression and a class structure that simply doesn't exist any more, rewarding the white middle classes for being white and middle class. Which of course it is.

However, Britain isn't the only country with an arcane honours system that rewards dubious achievement. Our good friend the President of the United States goes out of his way to pin Presidential Medals of Freedom to the chest of anybody who hides under their desk in the Baghdad Green Zone for long enough. And, of course, Tony Blair. And Margaret Thatcher.

Speaking of dubious achievement, what in the name of all that is holy was George Formby doing with the Order of Lenin? Secret orders to bump off Gracie Fields for the good of East-West relations? We'll never know.

Ultimately, when faced with an honours system which embraces both Rolf Harris and Andy Hayman in one fell swoop, the most sensible reaction is probably to bite the bullet and cherish it for its winsome eccentricity.

Your Majesty - keep doling out the medals. We'll take half a dozen.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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