Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

A knight of road, but he'd rather jam with Weller

As someone drawn to any sports star who betrays a personality beyond the self-fixated, deadly dull one which total dedication to a single activity usually creates, I'll enjoy seeing Bradley Wiggins saunter - or maybe cycle (would they let a knight of the realm chain his bike to the palace railings?

It would seem churlish not to) - into Buck House to collect his knighthood later this year. Apart from anything else, I appreciate a man in a nicely cut suit and Wiggins has an array of fabulous ones. I'm hoping for crushed velvet, maybe deep purple, to match his majestic sideburns and haughtily held swan neck.

In terms of the symbolism of the award itself however, surely we can all agree now that the Honours are bordering on ridiculous, about as weighty and worthy as a last gasp victory by Lance Armstrong. In this respect, Wiggins has things in neat perspective. With a bit of humour, mainly directed at the over-anxious 'Susan' Barker, he punctured the sotto voce solemnity of the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year show last month, and his response to the knighthood is equally grounded.

He says he's chuffed alright, but the thrill doesn't match up to joining Paul Weller onstage in London last month to sing The Jam classic, That's Entertainment. "How many people get to do that?'' he enthused. Certainly far fewer than there are Sirs and Dames. Bradley has the stature of his 2012 achievements entirely in proportion.

Having said all that, the person who's come out best from this year's Honours news is Danny Boyle, who stuck to the principles his Olympic opening ceremony espoused about the heart of the country being its unsung working class heroes, and rejected his knighthood. None of us who have followed Boyle's brilliant career, and heard the passion with which he speaks about human rights, poverty and the ennobling power of aspiration for even the most downtrodden, were surprised to hear him say, in response to the leaked story about his rejection, "I'm proud to be an equal citizen, that's what the opening ceremony was about."

There have always been major moral problems with a scheme, descended from the pompous, superiority-assuming days of the Empire, which attempted to bestow greatness upon a person simply because he/she was approved of by the establishment. (The Queen is alleged to have stymied Tony Blair favourite Mick Jagger's knighthood for years, considering him an 'inappropriate' candidate). But since the entire England cricket team - including that bloke who played for about 20 minutes - were given MBEs for winning the Ashes in 2005, the system has become a laughing stock.

Why should anyone be rewarded for focussing entirely on themselves and their visions of glorious victory, or for raising their own profile via talent, commitment or celebrity? Even before Sir Jeffrey Archer, Sir Fred Goodwin or Sir Jimmy Savile, the whole thing stank.

The only way to make the Honours meaningful would be to reserve them for unknown individuals for a few years. How rousing it would be to see teenage carers, respite-providers and community volunteers, who enrich people's lives without any expectation of recognition beyond the odd, quiet pat on the back or 'thank you', on the front of our newspapers at the close of each year. They might not turn up at the palace in velvet suits, but their award would dignify the process in a way that sports stars and TV celebrities never could.

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