Belfast Telegraph

By giving his wife's stylist an OBE Cameron has devalued the hard work the honours list is supposed to reward

By Lindy McDowell

Who among us hasn't had one of those days when we've left the hairdresser's so indebted for the transformation/salvage work carried out therein that, were it in our power, we'd gladly give that crimper an OBE? A knighthood even.

And so to the major political story of the week which centres on reports that Dave Cameron, formerly of Downing Street, is intending to dole out parting gongs not just to members of his backroom team (bad enough) but also to "millionaire party backers" (boo!) and even to the stylist who sorted Sam Cam for her occasional sortie in front of the Press cameras.

Before we get into the heavy ethical stuff - an observation.

How come a grown woman - Samantha Cameron is 45 - can't style herself? Especially since it's also reported that, post Number 10, Mrs Cam is planning to launch her very own fashion line.

If she can't dress herself - and this is a woman with an elegant, easy to cater-for figure - how come she thinks she can dress the lumpy rest of us?

But back to Gong-gate and the ethical question of whether it is right that people like her stylist should be rewarded merely for doing the job they're paid to do. A job for which they've been very handsomely paid to do down the years.

This stylist, presumably, was not on hand when Sam Cam rushed out the door that day to the royal wedding, completely forgetting to bring her hat. Or when she served Miriam Gonzalez Durante, snooty wife of one-time Coalition partner Nick Clegg, Hellman's mayonnaise from a squeezy bottle.

The stylist's actual job, we learn, entailed among other things, steering the PM's wife out of upmarket Prada and into High Street Hobbs and Zara because that was seen to play better with the public in times of austerity.

And for this, she is now reportedly in line for an OBE.

Order of Beach and Evening-wear presumably.

Basically for a role that involved doing much what a good friend would do. Suggesting outfits you might look good in and then standing in the changing room tut-tutting: "Nah, does nothing for you, love. Bit neat on the hips."

Still. Let's not vent all our fury on the "honoured" stylist. The "honouring" of all those millionaire donors also in line for "recognition" deserves even more contempt.

Cameron is not the first former PM to hand out leaving gongs like goodie bags at a kids' party. Back in the days of Lloyd George there was even a price list outlining how rich backers could "contribute" to party funds in return for a knighthood.

Some would say the list is with us still. In spirit if not in actual cost breakdown.

All of this shames the honours system which is meant to - and in between, luvvies, cronies and flavour-of-the-month sports stars - and actually does salute and reward individuals who genuinely contribute to society.

As opposed to a PA whose contribution includes pointing out to the former PM's wife when her lippy needs topping up.

The idea behind the honours list - the various honours lists - is noble.

But that idea is being dishonoured by the sort of back-scratching crony-ism suggested by the Cameron exit list.

It debases the honours themselves and detracts from the real achievement and selfless work of people who have been rightly awarded down the years.

Would it work better if you and I had a say? If we, the public, were given the chance to have some input into nominating and deciding who receives a gong?

I know what you're thinking here. Sir Boaty McBoatface.

But what we've got now is Sir Crony McCronyface. And Stylish McStyleyface OBE.

Surely we can do better.

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Belfast Telegraph


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