Thursday, February 02, 2012

Honour killing

Some are born honoured, some achieve honours, and some have honours thrust upon them. The vast majority of us, of course, have to be content to live our lives un-honoured. Or, at least, honoured only in the eyes of our family, friends and God, which for many of us will be honour enough, for there is none greater. But not all gongs are clanging. Some who achieve honour are rightly called ‘Your Honour’, for they are essentially honourable men and women whose honour may be beseeched. And honour also exists among thieves and murderers, for reputation outlives honesty. Personal honour is greatly to be valued; indeed without it, life is stolen and man is poor indeed.

A minority will choose to live a life of dishonour, and society has developed ways and means of dealing with such reprobates. To be honoured either by birth or achievement brings with it responsibility, for those to whom much is given, much is expected. The honour ethic of the warrior has been written of since the time of Homer, and it is inseparable from the notion of dignity – the characteristic by which we think of ourselves as commanding (or failing to command) the respect of those around us. The absence can be catastrophic, for self-worth derives from both honour and dignity – in both the higher ‘warrior caste’ of public life an in the ordinary life of production and reproduction. Indeed, competition for recognition of this dignity – the desire for our dignity to be honoured – is part of what animates democratic politics.

His Grace wasn’t going to comment on the benighted media splurge on the newly un-benknighted Fred Goodwin. Such public humiliation is a profound personal tragedy – of the sort which might send many a man over the edge. Mr Goodwin is human: he made some rather significant errors of judgment, and as a consequence has been dishonoured and has once again joined the ranks of the un-honoured. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.

But it is curious that those who operate in a perpetual paradigm of political expedience should be termed ‘honourable’ and ‘right honourable’ (though, significantly, only to their honourable and right honourable friends and colleagues). Politics is a very public existence, and to be elected undoubtedly bestows honour. And yet politicians mete out injustices with impunity, and often act from the basest of selfish motives in order to pander to the even baser instincts of the mob. Plato had one or two things to say about this. But His Grace finds that whenever he write a more philosophical post, it is read by fewer people and attracts fewer comments. Which is a dishonourable motive, really. But there’s no point blogging just for oneself, is there? (There’s a name for that. Or ought to be. How about ‘blogturbation’?)

But to Mr Goodwin, whose name will now forever rank alongside those of traitors, murderers and fraudsters: Antony Blunt, Robert Mugabe, Jack Lyons, Lester Piggott...

Perhaps he deserves it. Perhaps he doesn’t. His Grace hears both sides, and neither persuades him. But he is persuaded that it ought not to be for some anonymous quango called the Honours Forfeiture Committee which meets in secret to determine whether or not the Queen should cancel and annul an honour where its retention would bring the honours system into disrepute. This body acts in a quasi-judicial capacity, but the victim may make no representation or call witnesses to testify on his or her behalf: it is a political body, convened at the whim of the Prime Minister who is bound to respond to the baying of the mob. It cannot deliver justice.

Since orders of knighthood and decorations and medals are in the gift of the Sovereign, and the Sovereign is honourable and reigns by the Grace of God, it ought to be for a Judicial Committee of the Privy Council to determine whether or not an honour should be cancelled and annulled. And His Grace brings God into this because if the Lord can taketh away what he giveth, the same authority ought to be granted the Sovereign, who reigns by His Grace and has sworn an oath to govern wisely in His name. So ‘Life Peerages’ ought to be restyled simply ‘Peerages’ (since the hereditary sort is being phased out). Or, after the fasion of ‘Cool Britannia’, how about ‘People’s Peers’. Or, drawing on the senate tradition of Rome, ‘Citizens’ Peers’, for ultimately they are Peers of the People of the United Kingdom. And this reform would permit Her Majesty to cancel and annul those granted to Lords Archer, Taylor, Paul, Bhatia, Hanningfield and Baroness Uddin...

For despite their manifest dishonour, they may continue to sit in the Upper House of Parliament to make and amend the law of the land which they do not themselves have the honour or dignity to uphold. Amidst the ongoing revolution in the House of Lords, the ability to ‘recall’ those who bring the Peerage into disrepute would have been a relatively straightforward and (dare His Grace say) a thoroughly Conservative reform.


Blogger G. Tingey said...

I agree with the reasoning (always leaving the "god" bit out of course...)
Since Goodwin was knighted for "services to banking" it is only appropriate that, since those services turned out to be a disaster, the honour should be withdrawn.

Only one question....
What about the OTHER guilty men?

2 February 2012 at 08:12  
Blogger Dodo the "Poly-Nominal" Dude said...

Whilst one may agree with the general sentiments expresed about the Honour system, it has to be remembered we are dealing with the situation as it is and not how it should be.

The charge is that this chap put self above service, and personal benefit above the welfare of his company, its customers and the general commonwealth. Errors of judgement can surely be forgiven; what might have motivated those judgements is the critical issue.

Cheer up though, he does have his wealth to cushion him in this his darkest hour. Given a choice between honour and less wealth, what would he have chosen?

2 February 2012 at 08:56  
Blogger Hereward said...

A Knight that isn't has diverted attention from a veto that wasn't.
Very convenient.
This episode says as much about the character of the Rt Hon David Cameron MP, Prime Minister, as it does about Mr Fred Goodwin.

2 February 2012 at 10:02  
Blogger bluedog said...

It would seem, Your Grace, that nobody expects the British Inquisition.

Perhaps the Honours Forfeture Committee is a collective reaction to OH & S and the whole human rights edifice which strangles every executive move in legal proceedings. So a new form of rough justice has evolved, a peoples disciplinary tribunal, if you wish.

Now this line of thinking can lead down an interesting path. After all, if an honour can be bestowed by the Sovereign and withdrawn subject to extra-judicial proceedings, what else? For example, why not re-brand citizenship as an honour bestowed by the Sovereign. It would then be possible for a Citizenship Forfeiture Committee to be convened by a PM under pressure and an irritatingly persistent terrorist could simply become a non-person and be airlifted to say, Camp Bastion, with his wives and offspring. To hell with the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights.

Democratic cover is assured by the electronic voting buttons in the popular press.

As Habeas Corpus has already been abolished, there doesn't seem much standing in the way of the above.

2 February 2012 at 10:58  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Perhaps the knghthood shouldn't have been awarded in the first place and perhaps honourable knights would not have taken the enormous pension under the circumstances.

Strippng him of it seems almost petty and rather politically motivated. That said, I recall thinking it seemed petty and spiteful when Diana, Princess of Wales was stripped of her HRH by the Queen. In retrospect, i think I was wrong there.

2 February 2012 at 11:12  
Blogger Corrigan1 said...

I don't see that it's wrong to take away Goodwin's honour just because there are others who should also have theirs taken away.

Goodwin was a walking emblem of what has gone wrong with the business class in modern commerce. He was not a banker by training or experience. He came into the banking business under the 'master of the universe' rule which says that all business is the same and anybody involved in any aspect of it is qualified to practice in any other. That philosophy is, in its turn, based on a narcissistic worldview which has become prominent since the time of Thatcher. Based on classical liberalism, it holds that business is a self-regulating organism in which the best rise to the top; the unspoken corollary is that by definintion, those at the top must be best. It's a circular logic which takes no account of HOW one got to the top.

At one time, business, particularly and most importantly in the financial sector, was about long term training. If you were in insurance, for example, your working life was a series of exams for qualifications which allowed you to move up the company ladder over the years. Same was true of banking. You didn't just walk in the boardroom door and start barking the odds, which, essentially, is what Goodwin did. You had to make your bones first.

Boring and 1950s as all that was, it worked. You didn't make suicidal trades because you had a loyalty to the company, its staff and investors based on the years you spent working your way up. You had a responsibility to something beyond your own career, and you didn't expect to get paid millions regardless of whether you built the company to its zenith or collapsed it into anarchy.

Goodwin was a chartered accountant who made his name slashing and burning. Sometimes that's necessary in a company, of course, but not just to build your own reputation. If stripping him of his knighthood is indicative of a new attitude to (or rather, the return of an old attitude) to business, then let's have more of it, and not just in Britain but in every country that honours its business people.

2 February 2012 at 11:44  
Blogger Larks Tongues in Aspic said...

It's a pathetic gesture of no significance to anyone but Fred. A government that takes money from the disabled takes three letters away from a banker that helped destroy our economy. The world has gone mad, and this government is a disgrace.

2 February 2012 at 12:44  
Blogger Marie1797 said...

I think it's right that Mr Goodwin's knighthood has been withdrawn and he should also have to forfeit the enormous pension too. His thrill seeking went too far when he forced through the ABN Amro deal.
He knew there would be a collapse way back in spring 2007 as he was selling some of his London property in a panic. Maybe it was the cocaine that affected his decisions to the detriment of the bank and in turn the country, but I don't see why failure should he rewarded let alone honoured.

And I agree with HG about the others Archer, Taylor etc....
How can they otherwise be our Peers?

2 February 2012 at 13:14  
Blogger Owl said...

I agree totally with your post.

Many companies are virtually being run by bookkeepers these days.

They assocciate everything to figures, not people or products.

The only action they can take is to cut costs, usually by cutting the workforce. This is then termed "efficiency".

The idea of making a company succeed by innovation, effort etc. is often quite impossible for them even to consider as they have no understanding what the company does and how they do it.

They get into these positions which are way over their heads by networking (being willing lackeys long enough).

They have a "common purpose".

2 February 2012 at 13:25  
Blogger john in cheshire said...

1. a combination of blog and onanism might sound more appealing
2. I'm not sorry Mr Goodwin has lost his title. I am disappointed that there aren't many more individuals who had lost theirs too. All members of the HoC, who were complicit in the expenses fraud should have been disbarred from standing as MPs. All members of the HoL, who were also complicit in the expenses fraud, and all other unlawful activities; including running down people with their car; should be removed from that place
3. The HoL needs to be reformed. The only Lords should be the remaining Hereditary Peers (who are slowly dying out, anyway, as you say) and the remainder should be wholely elected Senators; ie. we rename the upper House the Senate. The rules for election to the place need to be agreed, but a maximum of 5 years and no more than two such periods for any one person. Also, the upper house should have the same power as the lower House and the Executive would make up the third body, as it does in practice. This would move us closer to the USA setup, with a law only being passed by a majority (maybe of 2/3rds in each House) in at least two of the three branches of government.
4. Abolish all titles and honours, with perhaps the exception of military medals such as the GC, MM and VC.

2 February 2012 at 13:47  
Blogger Oswin said...

As you say, Your Grace, it is the method of the deed that is at fault.

A Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is required, together with some measure of personal recourse, should it be sought, by the should not be a legalistic bun-fight, but the 'once-honoured' must be afforded the right to state their case, man-to-committee, as it were.

Such a committee would also be a further safe-guard against any possible 'blackmail' of, say a peer, who will not yield to some higher 'influence' etc.

'Sir Fred' is a good enough start, to a fresh look at the whole candidature system. I have absolutely no problem 're honours per se; and I believe that those who add to the wealth of our country ought rightly to be honoured.

As for 'cash for honours' - why quibble if some individual donates fifty million quid, for some honorific; if the Nation's Treasury benefits directly? As long as it is not for individual 'Party' funds, then where is the harm?

Imagine if we could ease our current fiscal problems, by awarding those who choose to donate a few billion, for an Earldom! The 'Peerage' now carries few, if any powers, so where is the harm; where is the disparity in purpose?

If some Arab oil-Sheik, like Mahdi al-Tajir for instance, fancies a Dukedom, at twenty-five billion quid (not quite pocket change, but for the man who can have almost anything...etc) - hey, we could even throw-in out-line planning permission for a castle! (land being an 'extra' etc.)

A little imagination could see this country back on track, and for what; a few hundred (?) fancy vellum scrolls, and kneeling before Her Majesty, is all!

Have you seen the current price of meaningless Manorial Titles???

2 February 2012 at 15:17  
Blogger Mr Integrity said...

Your Grace;
An interesting analysis of this sad situation. It seems a little trite to remove Fred’s so called honour when so many others are culpable. The truth is, he should never have been honoured in the first place. That brings me to the point that too many are receiving dubious honours particularly the appointments of Life Peers. It is those who are guilty of such wanton appointments during the last twelve years that should be taken to task, not the individuals appointed. More Peers were appointed under the last labour administration than at any other time. Their purpose was to establish a labour majority in the upper house rather than selection of Peers upon merit. My own view is that I would prefer a Hereditary Peer than a politically appointed Life Peer. The selection process is more to do with Genes than for the political convenience of them that’s in charge.
It seems that Her Majesty should not be involved in these demeaning activities such as Fred. Knighthoods should not be given for business service full stop. They should be retained for extended service to the Crown or Government.

2 February 2012 at 17:53  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

The Inspector is with you on this one Integrity.

Some have honours bestowed on them as part of their job.
Some have honours bestowed on them for whom they know.
Some have honours bestowed on them to recognise the selfish enrichment of themselves.

These are honours second class, if they are honours at all…

Doesn’t leave much does it, but every now and then, a real hero is given an honour.

Step forward those few who have selflessly donated their time and abilities over a lifetime to help the deserving, and
Step forward those brave souls who earned them by outstanding courage in the face of adversity…

Now these, gentleman, are honours first class…

2 February 2012 at 18:49  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Of course, all this talk of Knighthood is confusing to Americans. But wouldn't it be easier if Knighthood was only conferred for doing something ... you know ... Knightly? Perhaps only for doing those things that involve the Knightly virtues of bravery and chivalry and martial skill? Like re-conquering the Holy Land, or saving Tobruk from Rommel. Might not the problem be that it is entirely too easy to become a Knight. For goodness sake, Elton John is a Knight! For what? Singing a song? Weren't singers called minstrels in the Middle Ages instead of Knights?

If you award the title without discrimination, then you should expect that some people will defame the honor.


2 February 2012 at 18:54  
Blogger Windsor Tripehound said...

On Monday evening I was with a group reading St Paul's letter to Titus, and this verse spoke out to me (ch 3 v3).

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.

It appears to me that we have reverted to living in "malice and envy". Relieving Fred of his knighthood achieves precisely nothing other than feeding our baser instincts.

All the bleating we hear about fairness; "he's getting a £1,000,000 bonus and I'm not - it's not fair". Principled argument or envy? I wonder. Will making Hester a million pounds poorer make anyone else significantly richer?

2 February 2012 at 19:40  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Just for you Tripehound, again...

Some have honours bestowed on them to recognise the selfish enrichment of themselves.

2 February 2012 at 19:47  
Blogger Theo said...

Strip the knighthoods from John, Jagger and McCartney among others. If not for being talentless, boring, and leading a whole nation into idolatry then for being totally irrelevant in the pursuit of man's primary purpose on earth: that of glorifying God.

2 February 2012 at 20:55  
Blogger happyuk said...

I would never stick up for Goodwin who drove RBS to bankruptcy, which hugely impacted society.

But this demonization diverts our attention from the real problem. Why not turn the spotlight on the politicians who let it happen like ‘Lord’ Prescott and ‘Lord’ Mandelson, the man who was "intensely relaxed" about the rich, especially those with yachts.

If Goodwin can be stripped of his title, then why not LORD Archer, LORD Taylor, BARONESS Udin, LORD Hanningford, LORD Browne and the rest of the lying, cheating, fiddling scumbags?

When will we wake up to the scandalous corruption that runs through Brussels?

My heart bleeds for Mandy’s chum Tony Blair who is struggling to get through these difficult times on a measly £45million. Let's hope our 'socialist' former leader isn’t forced to flog one of his seven houses.

2 February 2012 at 21:22  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Indeed Happyuch. That scoundrel Blair has only to write off for HIS ennoblement. Imagine that, a fortune made off socialism. The genuine founding fathers of the labour movement would recoil in disgust...

2 February 2012 at 21:44  
Blogger Dodo the "Poly-Nominal" Dude said...


Let's be fair, Blair never claimed to a 'socialist'. As for New Labour and their encouragement of the free market and deregulation, well wasn't this a consequence of the reforms Thatcher first initiated?

Just asking!

On a much less controversial note, I'm sure you'll agree, the British 'Honour' system could perhaps learn something from the Vatican's Knighthood system.

The Supreme Order of Christ is the highest honour, awarded exclusively to male Catholic Sovereigns or Heads of State.

Next is the Order of the Golden Spur, limited to Christian Sovereigns and Heads of State.

The Order of Pius IX has a number of ranks; the highest is the gold Collar of the Order, commonly awarded to Heads of State. The Grand Cross, the highest Papal award given to lay men and women, to ambassadors to the Holy See and to leading Catholics in the wider world for outstanding deeds for Church and society. The next rank is that of Knight Commander. Finally there is the Knight awarded to Catholics and non-Catholics and occasionaly to non-Christians.

The Papal Order of Saint Gregory has four classes - Knights Grand Cross (1st class), Knights Grand Cross (2nd class), Knights Commander, and Knights. This is
given for conspicuous service to the Church and to society, regardless of religious allegiance.

Finally, there is the Order of St. Sylvester, awarded to laymen who are active in the Apostolate, particularly in the exercise of their professional duties and mastership of the different arts. It is also conferred on non-Catholics.

2 February 2012 at 22:56  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Dodo. Most interesting, the Vatican system. What award would be appropriate to Catholic bloggers fighting secularism one wonders. As for Blair, the hour is late, we’ll leave him for another time...

2 February 2012 at 23:27  
Blogger Dodo the "Poly-Nominal" Dude said...


A Papal Blessing, perhaps; a wonderful award. One receives a certificate signed personally by the Pope offering his prayers and support.

3 February 2012 at 00:13  
Blogger What me worry? said...

If I were Fred I would leave the country for good. Rather than that than act as a continual circuit breaker to divert attention from the government's failing economic policies.

It is not to hard to believe that when things next turn for the worse it will be his pension that is withdrawn and then after that he is shoved up in front of a jury

Better off dead than being Fred!

3 February 2012 at 05:48  
Blogger Larks Tongues in Aspic said...

Dodo. Yes, Blair was just following Thatcher. The while sorry mess we are in can be traced back to the policies of Thatcher. Her own party now repudiates her policies while still lionising the old bat. Madness.

3 February 2012 at 07:58  
Blogger Windsor Tripehound said...

Office of Inspector General said...
Just for you Tripehound, again...

Some have honours bestowed on them to recognise the selfish enrichment of themselves.

Saying it twice doesn't make it wiser, cleverer or more true.

3 February 2012 at 08:31  
Blogger Mark In Mayenne said...

That your philosophical posts are not widely read does not mean they are of lesser value than those that are.

There are many profound works of literature of immense value that are known only to a small number of people.

Nice to see the subjunctive voice in written english, by the way.

3 February 2012 at 08:45  
Blogger Jon said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3 February 2012 at 10:30  
Blogger Jon said...

Doesn't it rather depend on what the knighthood was given for? "Services to banking" suggests past tense to me - a recognition of a lifetime of extraordinary service to an industry of national importance. I don't see anything wrong with bestowing a wreath upon a retiring person who has gone above and beyond the call of duty for his profession, occupation or country. (The fact that it has heraldic leanings is neither here nor there, these days, really).

Presumably, part of the problem is that the bestowers assumed the bestowee would continue to merit sir-dom. Tragically, and expensively, this turned out not to be the case.

I'd be more convinced by the removal of his knighthood if those civil servants who did the due diligence before bestowing it (many of whom are also knighted) also had to fall on their swords. Of course, it was a failure of due diligence which led to the collapse of RBS - this suggests that, across the piece, there are people who are recognising supposed extraordinary service in one another when they in fact aren't even doing their jobs to a minimum standard which could reasonably be expected.

3 February 2012 at 10:32  
Blogger Dodo the "Poly-Nominal" Dude said...

Larks said ...

"The while sorry mess we are in can be traced back to the policies of Thatcher. Her own party now repudiates her policies while still lionising the old bat."

Funnily enough I admired Thatcher for her directness and commitment. Those qualities are sorely missed today. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and we can now see the mistakes of her Government. But think back to the mess our country was in when she became PM. Plus, her international policies were successful too. That said, she did usher into Britain the "loads of dosh" culture and a more brazen form of capitalism. Then these things were coming from across the Atlantic.

The Blair/Brown Government should have been aware of where things were heading and acted. All the warning signs were there. They didn't and must bear the greater burden. My point was that Blair never claimed to a 'socialist'; Brown, now he was a different kettle of fish.

3 February 2012 at 17:57  
Blogger Larks Tongues in Aspic said...

Hi Dodo - yes, Labour share the blame. We were heading for disaster, and instead of hitting the brake they hit the accelerator.

But they did alright out of it, that's the main thing.

3 February 2012 at 19:05  
Blogger Dodo the "Poly-Nominal" Dude said...


Yep - Mandelson sums them up with his prancing and preening,like a peacock. Actually, that'sunkind to peacocks.

That said, I did like Mr Prescott. Is that bad? He just made me laugh!

3 February 2012 at 23:17  
Blogger Dodo the "Poly-Nominal" Dude said...

I also enjoy Dennis Skinner's performances although, sadly, age is now catching up on him. Bet he's a good chap to have a drink with. 20 years 'down pits' and in the Commons since 1970, never misses a Commons session, and I bet he'd turn any 'honour' offered. Suspended 10 times from the Commons too.

That said, I hate his politics and his voting record but at least he's straight and not self-seeeking.

4 February 2012 at 00:55  
Blogger Larks Tongues in Aspic said...

I have a grudging admiration for Messrs Skinner and Prescott. A great moment when Prescott turned round and thumped that idiot. :-)

4 February 2012 at 06:22  

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