Honours among fiefs

20th January 2006 at 00:00
What a fantastic deal: spend pound;2 million sponsoring an academy and in return you name it, influence its running, and get a knighthood on the side. At least, that is what London head and academy adviser Des Smith told an undercover reporter.

He even gave a tariff: a Lordship for five academies (a snip at 10 million quid); up to a Sir for anything less. Maybe he was misquoted or overselling his influence. But is anyone surprised by the story? Britons know how to read honours lists: the rich often get something for something. So: is pound;2m per OBE a good deal for the taxpayer? Since the state provides pound;25m per school, hands over its ethos to the sponsor, and asserts that sponsors take part out of altruism, possibly not.

Mr Smith deserves an honour for honesty. An OBE, standing for "Oh, bloody 'ell."

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