Imagine that you have selflessly devoted your life to campaigning around a number of originally unpopular issues. You have sacrificed material comfort to do so, and have run your political work on a shoestring from a small council flat in South London. Over the years, you have paid the price for your commitment. Slanders from your political opponents that have nearly broken you. Brickbats and severe beatings from fascists, both at home and abroad.
But, through sheer force of personality and determination, you’ve carried on. You have had notable successes. You are responsible, at least in part, for Middle England becoming increasingly homo-friendly. The Guardian and the Daily Mail agree: you are a national treasure.
One day, the Government decides that it would like to help you continue your campaigning work. It offers you an office and funding, with absolutely no strings attached. Better still, it offers to appoint you to the legislature. You will be able to participate in the making of laws and in the work of Parliament. Your contribution to society has been recognised by the country itself, which is calling on you to serve, to make this a better nation.
There is only one catch.
We are in the process of reforming our ancient constitution. As a result, we still use some language which has echoes of England’s feudal past: a legacy of the Norman Conquest. Just as we describe property ownership in terms of “freeholds” – that is property that formally belongs to the Queen, but which we “hold” at her favour – we call those appointed to the legislature, “Lords”.
That won’t be a problem though, surely? Its just a name. It doesn’t change the substance of what the appointment would mean. Surely?
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
Well, if Peter has been offered a peerage, and if he turns it down because he doesn’t like the word “peerage”, then he is a fool. Britain will have lost one of the few men who genuinely believes in public service.
Of course, the fact that Peter would want to turn this job down is precisely why he is most needed.