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Off with their knighthoods … after Fred Goodwin, who should be next?

Here are some suggested knights erring. Pitchforks not included

This week’s big news-effect announcement is that former RBS boss Fred Goodwin has been stripped of his knighthood. As pious chancellor George Osborne explained, Fred “came to symbolise everything that went wrong in the British economy over the last decade”.

How convenient, and I know we all feel a real sense of catharsis now that someone none of us will ever clap eyes on has been stripped of whatever meaningless bauble was conferred upon him by a bunch of politicians still posing as hapless bystanders to events that continue to destroy people’s lives. But most impressive is that “came to symbolise” – perhaps the woolliest piece of non-legal reasoning for a decision since that bloke was voted off the Weakest Link for being Welsh.

By now, you will have realised that your role in papering over capitalism’s malfunctions is to watch politicians call for empty gestures, and then look grateful for them. In fact, ideally, you will have the bit between your teeth and already be thinking: in the interests of consistency and trying to keep warm, which other knights can we demand to have stripped of their pointless titles, on the basis that they have Come To Symbolise everything that’s wrong with something or other? As a foray into service journalism, Lost in Showbiz has laid out a potential field from which you may pick your knights erring. Pitchforks are not included, and you are reminded that these are merely idle suggestions that you can reject at will, while further nominations are, of course, welcome.

Sir Bruce Forsyth

Given that Sir Brucie gracelessly held out for his K since what feels like the cretaceous period, what a giggle it would be to see him stripped of it seemingly seconds after finally bagging it, on the basis that he has Come To Symbolise everything wrongly nostalgic and unimaginative about modern light entertainment. I know many adore Brucie. But watching him blame the stagehands when he fluffed his lines at the National Television Awards last week, Lost in Showbiz was reminded of a passage in the legendary Bob Monkhouse’s memoir Crying with Laughter, which finds Bruce turning up late at some Variety Club event or wherever, and a mutinous crew glossing the situation. “Ladies and gentleman,” booms the loudspeaker. “The ego has landed. The ego has landed.”

Thereafter, Monkhouse offers a little pen portrait of Bruce, which contains more faint praise than an estate agent’s blurb for 10 Rillington Place. “Tap dancing his way through life,” he muses of Brucie, “while bestowing his prodigious gifts upon us all, his genes have allowed him to become a skilled pianist, tuneful singer, convincing actor and magnificent TV host. It would have been going too far to make him an intellectual too.”

“Sir” Rupert Murdoch

Though this one isn’t in the power of the honours forfeiture committee to rescind, the News Corp chairman was made a papal knight in 1998 for bunging the Catholic church some huge donations. (Evidently the church has a similar system for honours to the one Britain has long espoused.) Cavaliere Murdoch – he uses this title with baffling rarity – was knighted in Los Angeles, with Pope John Paul II judging that he was of “unblemished character”. Little further comment seems necessary, other than to point out that, although Murdoch could not reasonably be said to have Come To Symbolise everything that went wrong in the Catholic church, relieving him of his honour would be an easy win for a Vatican whose other image problems are proving harder to fix.

Sir Ben Kingsley

When the Gandhi star was credited as “Sir Ben Kingsley” in the titles and promotional posters for the movie Lucky Number Slevin, it drew all manner of mirth from parties such as Lord Puttnam and Sir Roger Moore, with the latter deeming it “pretentious bullshit”. Eventually, Kingsley felt moved to make a statement, claiming that such forelock-tugging was nothing to do with him. “No one has ever asked for the title to be used in this way,” he explained, “because that’s not the way we work in this profession.” But how strange. For I still have in my possession a fax sent by the producer to all crew on Mrs Harris, the film Kingsley made immediately prior to Lucky Number Slevin. “We received a call from Ben Kingsley’s agent,” it begins, “informing us that he prefers the title ‘Sir Ben’. As you may know, he was knighted by the Queen of England at Buckingham Palace in 2001. Please address him as ‘Sir Ben’ if you find yourself in his presence.”

Sir Beefy Botham

Yes, yes – we all know what would be in the column of reasons for the retention of Ian’s title. In the against column, Lost in Showbiz would list “his commentary”. The sledgehammer subtext of every Beefy apercu on the action unfolding before him is “I would have done that better”, and his air of studied disinterest rarely fails to irritate. Having said all that, if he was knighted for services to implying that it’s a chore to watch test cricket in his short-sleeved shirt, he’s doing a bang-up job and should probably be chucked some ermine. (Incidentally, space prohibits it, but Lost in Showbiz is aware that there is a veritable round table of sporting knights who could entertainingly be relieved of their gongs, from the determinedly non-mercenary Sir Geoff Hurst to Sir Steve Redgrave. Indisputably, the latter has won a lot of medals. But even if he won the entire contents of South Africa’s most richly seamed gold mine, and gave it to the treasury, I’m afraid Steve should be de-sirred for making a needy post-imperial country in the twilight of relevance feel obliged to care about his sport.)

So there’s a selection to get you started. But it’s becoming clearer and clearer to Lost in Showbiz that the most effective thing with which the politicians could distract us is a pre-emptive campaign to strip Simon Cowell of his inevitable knighthood before it has even been awarded. It makes perfect sense – so resist absolutely no attempt by politicians or newspapers to froth you into paroxysms of indignation about the very idea of Sir Karaoke Sauron. Frankly, Lost in Showbiz can think of no worthier displacement activity with which to disport ourselves as Britain’s systemic problems are quietly bolstered, and urges you to begin writing mad letters to your MP today. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds