So apparently Jimmy Savile can’t be stripped of his knighthood even after all the revelations about his extensive abuse of children has come to light.
According to the Cabinet Office, the forfeiture committee cannot strip people of their honours posthumously because they ‘die’ along with the bearer.
So that’s that then. We all just shrug our shoulders and say what a pity.
But hang on a minute. Why can’t people can’t be stripped of their honours or titles posthumously?
Are British titles like ‘sir’ or ‘lord’ or honours like OBEs bound by the laws of nature?
Are the complicated rules and traditions which dictate what can and can’t be done with our titled and honoured members of society entirely subject to dictats from God or bound by inviolable rules of physics?
Whatever some people in the more conservative parts of our country may think, honours and titles are not part of some natural order. They are all entirely man-made – literally – and as something invented by ‘men’ they can be un-invented by ‘men’ too.
The rule that honours and titles can’t be stripped posthumously is not an inviolable law of nature. It can be changed. Very easily in fact.
There is nothing to stop parliament passing a law stripping Savile – or anyone else for that matter – of his title. It might be unprecedented but impossible? No. It could be done in an afternoon if there is the will.
But there, perhaps, is the crux of the problem.
Is there really the will? If a law were to be presented to parliament stripping Savile or any other paedophile or criminal of their honours or titles, would it be passed unanimously? Or would some of the more Conservatively minded of our representatives stand up and speak against it because it goes against ‘centuries of British tradition’ or whatever?
It would be interesting to find out.
This whole discussion around titles and honours is indicative of a bigger problem in British society in general. Too often our blind adherence to tradition means we accept the status quo – even if it means allowing and even enabling behaviour which would under normal circumstances be abhorrent to most people. We too readily turn a blind eye to unacceptable behaviour by powerful or famous people precisely because we’ve always turned a blind eye to it.
And this unquestioning blindness to the actions of our so-called ‘betters’ has resulted in other scandals too – apart from the one involving Savile – for example child abuse in the church, as well more recent scandals such as phone hacking and Hillsborough.
But why go to all the bother of stripping Savile of his honours, some may ask? He’s dead now so what good would it do?
It’s important because it would show that Britain is no longer a place where people in positions of influence or power can do what they want with complete impunity, no matter how powerful they are or whatever titles or honours they hold.
And that’s important because that is precisely how Savile and others like him were able to get away with what they did for so long.
Savile thought he was untouchable in real life – he said so himself as much – and the sad truth of the fact is that he was right. Nobody believed those poor children because he was untouchable in life.
Stripping him of his title posthumously will show once and for all that there is nobody in this country who is untouchable or above the law – in life or in death.