31 Dec 2011

New year’s honours: big society ‘in action’

Helena Bonham Carter is among those given the official seal of approval, but as Cameron applauds recipients making a difference, he faces criticism over awarding a former criminal and a party donor.

This year’s high profile recipients include two golfers, Darren Clarke, who receives an OBE, and Rory McIlroy, who at 22 became the youngest US Open winner for 88 years and has been honoured with an MBE.

Ronnie Corbett also receives a CBE for his longstanding contribution to the entertainment world. Other media stars include TV presenter Lorraine Kelly, actress Helena Bonham Carter, and news correspondent Alex Crawford, who was highly acclaimed for her reporting in Libya.

The majority of this year’s 984 recipients are involved in community work and the cabinet office said it was recognition of their support of the “big society” through volunteering, fundraising, social action and philanthropy.

Those working in industry and the economy make up around 12 per cent of the awards and around 11 per cent of honours are for work in education, including 15 headteachers, and 10 school and college principals.

Former criminal awarded CBE

However the prime minister came under some criticism following the nomination of Gerald Ronson, a millionaire property developer. He was given a CBE for donations to charity, but was convicted of theft and accounting fraud, and jailed for his part in the Guinness Four share scam in 1990.

An OBE was also awarded to Christopher Preddie, 24, who the Cabinet Office said “has devoted his life to youth work and reducing crime” and is actively involved with Crimestoppers.

Two of his distant cousins are in jail following their conviction for the murder of schoolboy Damilola Taylor. Damilola’s father, Richard, objected to the honour, and told the Guardian: “I think there should be stricter rules. He’s a cousin of the killers of my son. I don’t think honours should be given to such people.”

Conservative party friends

Labour also criticised the award of a knighthood to Paul Ruddock, a hedge fund manager, who profited from the collapse of Northern Rock and has donated £500,000 to the Conservative Party.

The Oscar-nominated actress, Bonham Carter, received a CBE for her portrayal of the Queen Mother alongside Colin Firth in the film, The King’s Speech.

She accepted the honour on behalf of her father, and said: “I always thought my father deserved a medal for facing 25 years of chronic disability with quiet daily heroism so I am delighted to accept such a wonderful honour in his memory.”

The north London actress is married to film director Tim Burton, and the couple have been photographed out walking with David Cameron and his family.

Click here for the full details of the 2012 New Year Honours List.

New Year honours list: 'big society in action' (reuters)