The changing priorities of the Queen’s Honours system
From increased community recognition to improved social mobility, just how much have the Queen’s Honours priorities changed over the years?
The very fact that Sir Hayden Philips recommended an increase in transparency with regards to the Queen’s Honours system back in 2004 is what makes this article possible. If the Government hadn’t embraced his recommendation to publish regular reports on the system, how would anyone truly understand how much things have progressed in terms of priorities and recipients?
Of course, talking about the ‘progression’ of a ‘tradition’ may appear wholly contradictory to some. But the British Honours system can, in fact, demonstrate that this is possible.
From a priority perspective, we can see that in 2005, the Government set out to acknowledge those who had:
- Changed things, with an emphasis on practical achievement
- Delivered in a way that brought distinction to British life and enhanced the UK’s reputation
- Contributed in a way to improve the lot of those less able to help themselves
- Are examples of the best sustained and selfless voluntary service
- Demonstrated innovation and entrepreneurship
- Carry the respect of peers and are role models
- Showed sustained achievement against the odds
Some of these points feel a little exclusive – seemingly created for those who already enjoy high profile and who are in a position to make a significant difference at a national level. It is far more likely that individuals in senior and authoritative public service positions can meet the criteria when compared with somebody serving their local community voluntarily.
Additionally, it is often the case that individuals carrying out selfless work at a grassroots level are less likely to be well-known and enjoy the status and number of nominations that comes with that. Whilst they may be seen as role models within their immediate community, this might not filter through to nominations due to a lack of awareness of the Honours process in wider society.
However, in the most recent report, covering the period of 2015 – 2019, Theresa May’s priorities appear more tangible and relevant to broader society – with talk of creating jobs and economic activity, supporting children, young people and social mobility, improving your local community and tackling discrimination. This, in a way, could be seen as a step towards a less discriminatory Honours system in itself.
Looking at how these priorities have changed, they do appear to be more encompassing of society as a whole, including those doing voluntary and community work.
In his 2004 report, Sir Hayden stated that there should be an increase in community and non-state awards versus public servant awards at a ratio of 80/20. This is explained in Sir Hayden’s argument that an honour should not just go with a job well done or because someone has reached a particular level – but because an individual has in plain terms ‘gone the extra mile’ in the contribution they have made. This would make the community contribution much more likely to be recognised and also provide unemployed people with an opportunity to be acknowledged for the voluntary impact they are making on their community. Sadly, not all inspirational heroes are in employment.
The fact that the latest Honours report states that 73% of awards went to those doing community or voluntary work (never mind other non-state professions) is a hugely positive step and testament to Sir Hayden’s recommendations.
Recommendations to improve transparency, diversity and awareness were also made – all of which needed to happen in conjunction with changing priorities to ensure the right nominations were filtering through.
Perhaps the move towards growing awareness on newer channels, such as Instagram, and moving away from repeating the message to ‘those already in the know’ will translate into truly positive, more diverse statistics going forward that really do reward those at a grass-roots level.
Throughout all of these proposals and reforms, however, what remains at the core of the process is recognition for service and distinction. We just need to keep reminding those doing voluntary service that this means them as well.
In fact, going by the recommended ‘above and beyond’ criteria that reinforces the need for ‘distinction’ – they really are the number one priority of the Queen’s Honours Awards system.
BAYLEAF HONOURS ARE EXPERTS IN ROYAL RECOGNITION AND CAN HELP CREATE A COMPELLING MBE NOMINATION. CONTACT US TO FIND OUT MORE.