Debt and dishonour

One* of the best things about writing this blog is that lots of lovely readers send me great stories.  David in London (I’m using only his first name out of deference to his security background, but with that security training he will know immediately who I mean) spotted a great piece in the Evening Standard a fortnight ago and emailed it to me.  I did consider paraphrasing it, but on reflection it’s so well-written that I shall simply quote it in full:

It has emerged that up to 150 celebrities have been barred from receiving honours after the Government has taken to vetting people’s tax affairs before doling out the gongs.  Apparently they use a traffic-light system: red is for those under criminal investigation, serial tax dodgers or those who keep their dough offshore; amber is for those under non-criminal investigation or known to participate in one or more avoidance schemes; green is for the good children.

Much as we can all agree that tax avoidance is to be deplored, and that it should indeed debar you from an honour, there’s a problem here.  Up till now, any person of great eminence who remained plain Mr or Ms was assumed to have modestly, and privately, declined an honour.  Great kudos attached to this.  Now, though, people who have turned down honours will be widely suspected of being on the fiddle.

This seems a bit unfair.  Wouldn’t it be in the interests of openness and transparency — as well as more amusing for all the rest of us — if each year the palace published a nonhonours list, naming all those who would have got a K but didn’t because they are tax-dodging cads?

What a marvellous initiative that would be – although perhaps a “dishonours list” would be a better name.  The trouble is, how would we keep it down to manageable levels?  Once you start listing everyone who shouldn’t get a gong because of dodgy behaviour of some sort or other, well, that’s one giant can of worms.  Literally.

* Another of the best things is that I can write a post and then schedule it to appear at a later date.  This freaks people out, if I am in front of them during a training session and a blog post from me suddenly appears on their phone…

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