Tuesday, March 28, 2006

A Practical Solution To The 'Cash For Gongs' Scandal Which Might - But Need Not - Result In The House Of Lords Being Invaded By Defecating Elephants

I have been intrigued by the parallels between the government's policy of accidentally giving honours to the billionaires who support New Labour, and the fact that Blue Peter badges are now being sold on the internet trading site eBay.
Both of these developments suggest that free market thinking has triumphed over more subtle definitions of the public good, and that the ethics of the supermarket have replaced the values of the community.
This is not a surprise, and I make no comment on it. However, in one respect, the Blue Peter badge is preferable to the existing honours system, in that clear guidelines exist by which non-billionaires may apply for the award. The blue Blue Peter badge is awarded "for interesting letters, good ideas for the programme, stories, poems, pictures and for having appeared on the programme."
The Silver badge is slightly odd. According to the guidelines: "To win a Silver badge you have to do something different from what you did to win your Blue badge. For instance, if you won a Blue badge for an interesting letter; you could win a Silver one by sending us a picture or poem."
Green badges are awarded for letters with a conservation and environmental theme. Gold badges - the most exclusive award - are reserved for "really outstanding achievements - for instance, saving somebody's life or extreme bravery." A further category of badge is available to those who have won Blue Peter competitions.
Clearly the possibility of badge abuse exists within this system, and there is no clear definition of the criteria for judging, for example, "a really outstanding achievement". Both HM, The Queen, and the pop singer, Ms Madonna Ciccone, have been given gold badges, though I am not aware of either of them being involved in an act of extreme bravery.
However, in most regards, the Blue Peter system is preferable and - to use modern parlance - more transparent than the honours system.
I propose, therefore, that the honours system, which has been debased by greed, be replaced by the Blue Peter system, which will also allow the great and the good to be identified as they walk among us by the colour of their lapel decoration.
Clearly, this would be a radical constitutional change, and could not happen overnight. In the interim, perhaps the existing peers could be encouraged to open up a trade in honours. If peerages were 'for sale' on eBay, we would all have a clearer idea of their worth.

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