Women take lions share of honours as whiff of political cronyism remains

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The honours list 2014 is in. David Beckham and Andy Murray missed out, while shock horror – Conservative Party supporters and donors were handsomely rewarded. Quick, fetch the smelling salts before you faint with astonishment and outrage.

First up, we have those honoured within the arts – ie famous people we may have heard of. Only a cynic would suggest that they are awarded gongs to deflect public attention away from accusations of cronyism behind the scenes. Thank god I’m not a cynic. Penelope Keith and Angela Lansbury were both made Dames, Katherine Jenkins and Gavin and Stacey’s Ruth Jones landed MBE’s and Lynda Bellingham – perhaps best known for the reassuringly middle class Oxo ads was awarded an OBE.

Sculptor Anthony Gormley was knighted, as were film and theatre producer Michael Codron, the former director of public prosecutions Keir Starmer, and former Bank of England deputy governor Paul Tucker. Cuban ballet dancer Carlos Acosta was ‘thrilled’ with his CBE and Michael ‘Frank Spencer’ Crawford was ‘wonderfully’ surprised by his. Kevin McCloud from Grand Designs and Radio 1 DJ Pete Tong received MBE’s and Foyle’s War creator Anthony Horowitz was given an OBE. Radio 4 stalwarts Nicholas Parsons and the peerless Sandi Toksvig were also honoured.

Apprentice star Karen Brady was awarded a CBE, though some suspect that the Conservatives are trying to woo her as a prospective parliamentary candidate. The photo shows her speaking at the Conservative party conference In her glamorous wake came a flood of political cronies, donors and loyal servants including senior aides to Mrs Thatcher, Tory MPs, Tory party members, two Tory donors and a PR man who has been seen on holiday with David Cameron.

The honours list was heartening in one important respect though – for the first time, more women than men received recognition. 51%, or 611 of the 1,195 people honoured are female. Sir Bob Kerslake, head of the civil service (a post that has yet to be filled by a woman), said it represented "quite a significant shift" and "deep-rooted change" over the past 40 years. That much is certainly true.

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