Peter Tatchell: I turned down a knighthood because it’s ‘corrupt social snobbery’
Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has claimed he was sounded out about a knighthood – but turned it down.
Sir Elton John’s husband David Furnish this week raised questions about the way the UK’s honours system treats same-sex couples, after learning he was not granted a courtesy title where a woman married to Sir Elton would be. Male spouses of women with honours also receive no courtesy title.
Weighing into the discussion, Peter Tatchell writes that while the complaint is correct in “pure equality terms”, the entire system is “corrupt”.
In a column for the Guardian, he revealed: “Over the last decade, I’ve had three separate phone calls asking if I would be “minded” to accept an OBE, knighthood or a peerage.
“The caller had a cut-glass accent. He declined to identify himself, saying it was just a “preliminary” inquiry. It could have been genuine or possibly a tabloid sting.
“I have no idea who the man was or in what capacity he phoned me. In all three cases, I said no.”
He added: “To me, the whole honours system stinks of class privilege and social snobbery.
“It is a relic of feudalism, with a taint of nepotism and corruption.
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“Most of the top gongs go to business, military, diplomatic and civil service big-wigs, and to major party donors and political and royal cronies.
“Even the Queen’s pastry chef and gardener have received honours. It is the Establishment rewarding the Establishment. I find it obscene.”
He continued: “In addition, too many honours have imperial titles, such as Member of the British Empire. The Empire is rightly long gone.
“When it existed, hundreds of millions of people in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Pacific were colonised by Britain, ruled against their will, enslaved, exploited as cheap labour and had their lands stripped of natural resources. This sordid imperial history is not something worthy of commemoration with honours such as MBEs, OBEs and CBEs.
“All existing honours should be abolished and replaced by an award system that has no feudal, royal or imperial connotations.”