THOSE of us who consider ourselves to be on the left of the political spectrum encounter a degree of inner conflict when the latest beneficiaries of the UK’s honours system are announced. Your first instinct is to dismiss this as an empty charade, part of the eternal ritual of smoke and mirrors by which Britain’s ruling classes maintain the illusion of national unity and the subterfuge of patriotism. There you are, burrowing your way through the lists seeking out the names of those who have been ennobled merely for writing big cheques to party treasurers or weaving deceit for a beleaguered government. And you rail once more at how the fabric of privilege and influence in this country is held together by these sorts of artifices.

We have long since learned to accept the baubles for fleeting stardom in light entertainment and sport (England’s 2005 Ashes cricket squad anyone?). Yet these are now like heroic titans compared with the political fluffers and chancers who are now routinely transfigured in the honours lists. Theresa May’s resignation list published on Monday included the less than dynamic duo of Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, the special advisers who were driving the bus when their boss, in a feat of ill-advised political hubris, decided to call a General Election in 2017 as a means of facing down the most unhinged of Tory Brexiteers.

May was rewarded with a much reduced majority and an arranged marriage with the Democratic Unionist Party. This party is the word “intransigence” made flesh and any slim chance she ever had of securing a meaningful and grown-up Brexit soon evaporated along with her job. If this pair can become Commanders of the British Empire for playing a key role in the biggest political failure in modern history you find yourself wondering what they might have got if they’d actually been good at what they did: perhaps ownership of a small island republic or a cheeky wee government-approved arms dealership. You wouldn’t have minded so much if it weren’t for May distancing herself from the 2017 New Year’s Honours List (presumably on the advice of Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy). Then she and her team were at pains to let us know that this was David Cameron’s list and that it was tawdry and contemptible. This led to The Times and The Daily Telegraph telling their readers that, in future, the Prime Minister would be giving priority to people “who have helped the economy or boosted social mobility”. This in itself was a wonder, being the first time in living memory that either of these journals had mentioned the phrase “social mobility” without a snarl.

The National:

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May’s spinners said that a suite of fresh priorities would be introduced for the honours system, presumably to make it more inclusive and relevant. As well as those supporting social mobility there would be gongs and baubles for those who help their local communities and people who tackle discrimination. Recent events suggest, of course, that we may not have long to wait before Boris Johnson publishes his own resignation honours list: Tinky Winky and Peppa Pig are even now preparing their letters of acceptance.

Yet, those of us, I think, who scorn these honours outright risk looking like smug liberal metropolitans. You can’t begin to imagine the pride and happiness these honours have brought to many deserving British citizens and their families throughout the decades. They are a genuine and authentic way of expressing the nation’s gratitude and acknowledgment for a lifetime of service or excellence by thousands of committed and industrious men and women. Thus, they are raised up within their communities as examples of devotion and selflessness in a world which seems only to reward greed and self-gratification. It’s these people, these everyday heroes, these unheralded princes and princesses, who may be entitled to feel resentful that their unsought honours have been contaminated by the political avarice of Cameron and May and their acolytes.

This is not to paint a rosy picture of a system which, by its very nature, has always been prey to the whims of the desperadoes who lurk within the political classes. It’s impossible, though, to be entirely objective about what qualifies as deserving of an honour. It still grates with me that Jock Stein “only” got a CBE while Trevor Brooking received a knighthood. And I can only imagine that the members of the greatest rock band of all time Led Zeppelin must have quietly refused knighthoods.

But the predations of May and Cameron on these lists seem to embody the values of the hard right which have poisoned and distorted what remains of decency in the politics of the UK: everything and everyone has a price, even those institutions and traditions which natural conservatives clung to in choppy seas. Even those of us who have long regarded Westminster as a fig-leaf covering the indecency of the UK political system – the corporate lobbying of international gangsters and arms sellers, the illegal expenses – have been stunned at the contempt in which it is held by the desperate, desperate men and women of toxic Brexit.

The National: Jacob Rees-Mogg

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THESE people deployed illegal money and broke British law in securing a Leave vote, inconvenient truths that are curiously ignored by the BBC’s political correspondents when faced with Tories who talk about respecting the result of the referendum. Many of us had long suspected that the Tory party itself, which fancied itself as the sentinel of continuity and order, had lately been hollowed out and poisoned by an implacable class of political fanatics who sought to wield power without the wretched unpredictability of ordinary people. The subvention of parliamentary democracy we’ve seen over the past few weeks has long been in the planning, probably for five years or more. They have gamed this, to borrow one of their phrases.

It’s what else they’ve “gamed” during this time that ought to worry us.

When they seem content to lose Scotland you begin to wonder what social experiments lie in store for what remains of their precious Union. My heart goes out to the English people who are now at the mercy of these people. And I’ve never been happier that in Scotland we have a choice. Something tells me, though, that these ruthless people have probably “gamed” that as well.

I fear that Nicola Sturgeon’s warning last week that they wouldn’t hesitate to suspend Holyrood if it didn’t behave itself might yet prove to be prophetic. In these circumstances, we would then all have another choice to make about how far we would go to defend Scotland’s democratic institutions.