Honouring the Deserving and the Undeserving

I stopped reading Honours lists sometime ago. Judges, top civil servants, MPs, sports stars, rich businessmen and the like score dongs for just doing their well-paid jobs!   Ridiculous!

Mbe_medal_front_and_obverseI didn’t know a rich extended family member got an MBE.  His wife rang me in a fury:  ‘What community work has he done to get an MBE?’ She had shared her thoughts with him.  My guess is she probably did far more community work.  The firm which he part owns gives impressive dosh to good causes.   Market stupidity and woeful Government economic management has made this a very light burden.

A forbear the wife and I share set a very high standard of community work mainly done for nix.  He got an MBE and an appalling morning tea (sandwhiches, a pink bun?) at  Government House!   I’d got much better fare at drinkies for doing a small amount of archival work there as a public servant.

All this forelock tugging class deference and respectability reminds of Labour women MPs in the 80s who, following on the heels of  top unionists scoring knighthoods, fell in love with tinpot toryism too. Along with their male colleagues.  At least three were later made Dames.  Yes, they probably helped raise the status of women.  Some women that is.  Unfortunately they ‘served’ in the Rogernomics era.

If they were shocked by the damage meted out to small communities, the unemployed and families we didn’t hear about it.  If they were concerned about the coming sharemarket crash when they were re-elected in 1987 they didn’t bother to warn electors when they solicited their votes.  Prime Minister David Lange’s mistress gets credit for stymieing the flat tax proposal.  Where did the future Dames stand on the benefit cuts proposed but not implemented before Labour was booted out of office?  Ruth Richardson takes the dubious credit for them.

I’m pretty sure they voted for the super duper super scheme designed to goldplate MPs’ retirement including their own. It’s been revised but remains a handsome handout from the taxpayer.    National’s Marilyn Waring was in Parliament about the same time.  She is not a Dame, has no children.  My recall is that Labour women were scathing about what they saw as her self-publicising efforts.  But she has done far more to draw attention to the role of women in the economy and the absurd practice of measuring GDP without including women’s unpaid work.

Some of the Dames, noting their own good fortune, may have done some retrospective handwringing over social changes and the huge wealth gap which their Government laid the foundation for.  Is this their only legacy to the 70s women’s movement that helped shunt them into Parliament and handed Labour the now squandered women’s vote.  I hope they are offer some insight in their memoirs.  Or are arrangements for collecting dongs just too onerous?

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