Thursday, 16 December 2010

Peter, Groucho and Zaphod

The House of Lords is an undemocratic anachronism that the British establishment loves, because it's a legal way of handing out favours to cronies in a country where more overt corruption is frowned on. The fact that some people are ennobled thanks to their own real merit doesn't alter the fact that the honours system is corrupted by the unworthy bums of party donors, party yes-men and pliant Whitehall mandarins cluttering up the red leather benches.*

That's easy to say if you're still young and idealistic, or if you're older and just don't have a snowball in hell's chance of getting a peerage (whether - like most of us - you never did anything to deserve it and/or you never scratched the right backs). For somebody who's actually achieved something worthwhile to turn down the offer of a peerage, after a lifetime of hard work, effort and sacrifice must be much, much harder. So I'm impressed by Peter Tatchell who has - apparently - been offered a peerage and turned it down:

With the New Year’s honours list looming – and Bruce Forsyth, perhaps, hoping against hope that he might yet get a look-in – one maverick has had no hesitation in turning down a gong.
Arise – or maybe not – Peter Tatchell, the campaigner who has taken principled stands on many issues over the years, not least homosexual rights.

Tatchell, is reluctant to comment, but does not deny that he has been offered a peerage. Mandrake understands that, over the past five years, Tatchell has been sounded out about various other honours, too, but has declined them all because he does not approve of them. 

Like Groucho Marx, who famously refused to belong to any club that would accept him as a member, Peter Tatchell has class. When Douglas Adams, gave his unprincipled narcissist of a character, Zaphod Beeblebrox, the (ceremonial) job of Galactic President in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, he dryly noted that:

It is a well-known fact that those people who most want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it... anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.

That sums up why the sort of person who'd do favours for a big cheese in the hope of a peerage shouldn't be anywhere near the levers of power and, conversely, why we need more people like Peter Tatchell.

Peter Tatchell's latest campaign is Equal Love, a 'legal bid to overturn the twin bans on same-sex civil marriages and opposite-sex civil partnerships in the United Kingdom'. It would make the people affected very happy and wouldn't cost the rest of us a penny - what's not to like? The usual killjoys will probably start whining from  press and pulpit  about how terrible it is that they can't stop a group of people from doing something that makes them happy and harms nobody else, but I can't see anything approaching a good reason not to support this campaign. My best wishes go out to Equal Love, and to the (literally) peerless Mr Tatchell.

Hat tip to Harry's Place.

*the Bishops don't deserve to be there either, but that's a separate issue