A former Indian-origin soldier-turned-politician in the UK has returned his Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) in protest against what he feels is the misuse of the honour system by former prime minister David Cameron.
Major (Retd) Narindar Saroop, who was born in India, went on to serve in the British Indian Army before moving to the UK. He was awarded the CBE in 1982 on the recommendation of then prime minister Margaret Thatcher.
The 87-year-old has the distinction of being the first Conservative party candidate of south Asian origin to contest a general election in 1979.
However, the Tory party member and former London councillor now feels Cameron had shown “demeaning contempt” for the honours system by recommending less deserving people as part of his so-called resignation list, when he left Downing Street following Britain’s vote in favour of Brexit on June 23.
“Cameron’s list, in my view, included a lot of people who were undeserving of what they were given. Prime ministers like Harold Wilson and James Callaghan gave honours to their advisers, but many were very hardworking individuals. But in Cameron’s list, some of the names were only there a couple of years,” Saroop said on Tuesday (30).
He had written to the UK’s honours department at St James’s Palace in London to explain his decision last month.
Saroop described the move as a “futile cavalry charge” but said he felt he had to “make a point”.
“There is little wrong with our honours system. It is the demeaning contempt for it as practised by [Tony] Blair and Cameron which has led to such disenchantment about an otherwise honourable institution,” he wrote in his letter.
“Mr Cameron, often with some pride, indicated that he was the heir to Blair. This is now fully vindicated by his recent ‘dishonour list’, which runs close, possibly even overtaking, the lists of Lloyd George and of Harold Wilson’s Lavender List,” he added.
Saroop, who held senior roles at various multinationals and served as an adviser to charities such as Oxfam and Cancer Relief Macmillan Fund, said: “It’s obviously a wrench to return my CBE. I was extremely proud to be awarded it.”
An outgoing British prime minister has the right to draw up a resignation honours list on leaving office. Cameron’s resignation list, however, had proved controversial after the names he had recommended were leaked to the media last month.
His nominations for honours such as knighthoods and OBEs, caused an uproar as it showed that he had sought to reward Remain campaigners in June’s EU referendum, his political allies, his Downing Street staff and donors, two of his former drivers as well as his wife Samantha’s special adviser cum stylist.