In 2005, Sir Fred Goodwin was knighted “for services to banking.” This year, he had his knighthood annulled “for bringing the honours system into disrepute.”
Her Majesty withdrew the title on the recommendation of the Honours Forfeiture Committee, which is responsible for stripping honours from disgraced individuals and consists of the following (impartial) members: Sir Bob Kerslake KCB, Sir Jeremy
Heywood KCB CVO, Dame Helen Ghosh DCB and Sir Peter Housden KCB.
Mr Goodwin’s reprimand makes him part of the small group of people to have had knighthoods revoked; among the others are Ceausescu, Mussolini and Mugabe.
Mugabe’s honour was annulled in 2005 “as a mark of revulsion at the abuse of human rights over which he presided.”
The phrase ‘too little too late’ springs to mind – and even more so with Ceausescu, who ceased to be a Sir the day before he was executed by a firing squad!
The fact that any of these four gentlemen were knighted in the first place is bizarre, unfair and itself brings the honours system into disrepute. It devalues those who carry out genuinely altruistic work which is of value to our society.
For example, in the 2012 honours list, Eva Schloss – Anne Frank’s 82-year-old stepsister and a tireless Holocaust educator – received the CBE. Robert Owens, who has put in hours and hours of voluntary work at a primary school in Anglesey for the last 27 years, earned an even lower-ranking honour.
Even if Fred Goodwin had been a competent banker, would his job really have served the community? He was paid staggering amounts of money to make the Royal Bank of Scotland even more.
The entire aim of his career was to make himself and his shareholders richer.
Was Goodwin’s job so much more worthwhile than spending 41 years as a volunteer providing ‘meals on wheels’ to Alzheimer’s sufferers?
Because that’s what Lynne Hughes did – and still does, at the age of 71 – and this was only considered worthy of an MBE, the lowliest honour that there is.
Since Medieval times, the honours system has aimed to recognise the most worthy and laudable people in the land.
If Mussolini, Mugabe and Fred Goodwin are the best we can do, something’s gone wrong.
Stripping them of their knighthoods is one thing, but it would be even more encouraging to see honours being better distributed in the first place.