"David Cameron's resignation honours list is riddled with cronyism," scream the pundits! Where have they been for the last six years?
The honours system is legalised corruption. Never mind cash for peerages. For some, knighthoods and ennoblement are priceless. More than enough for a Prime Minister to buy their loyalty – and their principles.
The vast reach of Prime Ministerial patronage is part of what makes Parliament so powerless. On top of the whips and the payroll vote – which incredibly extends to almost a hundred ministers – the promise of honours offers an added incentive for MPs to toe the line. Loyalty is acquired with a mix of bullying and bribery. Whatever happened to inspired leadership?
But titles are only the tip of the iceberg. What about the quangos? What about the revolving-door regulators? What about the boards of business advisers, populated by the same few dozen Davos types? Corporate cronyism is everywhere in government.
And it cuts both ways. The post-politics careers of former ministers invariably involve consultancy roles and corporate directorships. Is that a reflection of their expertise? Or is it - implicitly at least - in return for services rendered while in office?
Nepotism in British government is supposed to have gone out with Northcote-Trevelyan over 150 years ago. Instead it has been allowed it to creep back in under the subterfuge of royal recognition.
Our new Prime Minister has spoken a lot about equality of opportunity. The old-boys network is meant to be making way for meritocracy. Reforming the honours system would be a good place to start.
"A revolutionary text ... right up there with the Communist manifesto" - Dominic Lawson, Sunday Times
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