My home town of Dunblane can boast Andy and Jamie Murray as their contribution to a brilliant Olympics success. (I started a course of ten tennis lessons when I was at Oxford. After the first one the pro advised me that I was wasting my money, and I have never handled a racquet since!) Dunblane is a town of a similar size to Royal Wootton Bassett whose brand new Sports Ground has just opened. They held an open day last Thursday, at least partly to let us get close to the Davis Cup, which of course we won last year for the first time in decades, and which is touring the country. What a magnificent trophy it is. It was great to see the absolutely first class sports facilities on the new Gerard Buxton sports field just outside the town. Mr Buxton would have been proud of what the Tennis Club have achieved, and my old friend Peter Orton would be delighted by the Rugby Club just across the road. We now truly have a sporting hub of excellence for the town and for Wiltshire and we should be proud of what we have achieved, and perhaps see if there may be a Murray or two around the town. (It was great to meet Paralympic Tennis player Louise Hunt who trains in Bassett and who is getting ready for her trip to Rio later this month. The best of British to her!)
There is a bit of sour grapes coming from the losers at the Olympics about our brilliant British success. (Second in the medals table at the time of writing – let’s hope we keep it up.) What spoilsports these people are. We have trained for the Olympics, and invested the money necessary to do so. What could possibly be wrong with targeting our efforts on winning Olympic medals? And well done to Sir John Major, whose invention of the Lottery made it all possible.
David Cameron’s Resignation Honours List has caused a bit of a hoo-hah. And to a degree I understand and sympathise. Is it really a proper use of the honours system to thank people simply for doing their job - a job for which, no doubt, they were perfectly adequately paid? ‘In this day and age’ is there really still a role for handles – ‘Sir this’, ‘Dame that’, the ‘Noble Baroness of somewhere or another’, or is it all an outdated anachronism? Is it right to use membership of the House of Lords in particular in this way? If it’s a legislature, should it really be a rest home for spin doctors and former MPs? Has Mr Cameron been over–generous with the very many gongs and rewards he handed out? All of these are genuine questions, although, for the record, let me be clear that they are hypothetical, devil’s advocacy sort of questions.
For my own view is that there is most definitely a role for titles to signify distinguished service to the country in one way or another. We like to be called ‘Mr’ or ‘Ms’ or ‘Wing-Commander;’ or ‘His Worshipful the Mayor’ and so on. These handles attached to one’s name advertise one’s role, one’s distinction. I take greater pride in the letters ‘MP’ after my name than almost anything else, and would sooner change my name than lose those magic little letters (the privilege of using them of course being granted to me not by a grateful PM, but by the kind electors of North Wiltshire who have increased my majority in each of my five general Elections so far!) David Cameron has been generous indeed; but then the service he has received from those thus honoured has been magnificent. Let us be generous in our appraisal, and above all avoid asking “What has he/she got that I don’t?”, since that very question indicates approval of the system we are seeking to criticise.
It is right to mark excellence, whether that be sporting, military, academic or political. The mean, miserable, green-eyed nastiness of some losers contrasts with the sheer admiration by most of us of the great and the good in so many spheres.