I have long believed that the system of "honours" is at the heart of British Establishment corruption. Of course, there is nothing intrinsically wrong about honouring lifetime achievement or social contribution. There is, however, something very wrong about politicians making the selection.
It is a minor piece of corruption for politicians to "honour" the nation's favourite footballers or pop stars. Like ugly, uncool Prime Ministers inviting beautiful people to Downing Street, they do it to win votes by associating themselves with popularity. That's what leads to such nonsense as rockers with more letters after their name than chords in their repertoire.
But that is the least of it. There are the party apparatchiks who work loyally in the hope of a chance, one day, to lord it (perhaps even literally) over friends and neighbours. There are the newspaper editors who know that to allow their journalists to speak truth to power will jeopardise the knighthood that otherwise comes up with the rations. Even if they don't care for such trifles themselves, they will have a disappointed family to contend with. Perhaps a wife who loses the right to be "Lady X." Or a mother who misses a Buckingham Palace investiture. Such subtle pressures are enough to keep many in line.Of course, this is all rather English and understated. Rarely does the system shows its fangs. This year's New Year's Honours list, however, features a major, yellow-toothed, foul-breathed snarl;
...the Queen's Police Medal goes to assistant commissioner Cressida Dick, who runs Scotland Yard's specialist crime wing, but was in charge of the operation that led to the fatal shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell tube station in 2005.
Yes, the jury in the "health and safety" show trial - used by the state to put the matter on hold until it was "old news" - specifically exonerated Ms Dick. Perhaps the lethal errors were all made after she - as Gold Commander - transferred control to CO19. Certainly there is no proof she was involved in discrediting an innocent victim in the disgraceful campaign of lies and spin which followed Jean-Charles's murder. Perhaps history will even remember her for her role as head of the Metropolitan Police's "Diversity Directorate" more than for that day of national disgrace. Perhaps.
The question still remains. In honouring a woman whose name is tied to that monstrous injustice, what message, dear reader, does our Prime Minister intend to convey?