New Year Honours: Congratulations to Liberal Democrats

Late last night we published the news that Shirley Williams has been made a Companion of Honour in the New Year Honours.

But she is not the only Lib Dem to be honoured today.


Sir Steve Webb – as we will now know him – has been claimed by many to be the best Pensions Minister the country has known. Before his Parliamentary career he was Professor of Social Policy at the University of Bath, so had an unprecedented level of knowledge and understanding in his field of expertise.

Ex staffer Tony Halmos is awarded  the BEM for work with City of London and Magna Carta celebrations.

A lifetime of service to charity and local government earns Cambridge’s Geoffrey Heathcock a BEM. A Lib Dem, he was first elected to represent the city’s Queen Edith’s ward on the county council in 1993, and carried on doing so until he retired in 2013, at which stage he was made an alderman of the county. Over the years he has also helped to raise thousands of pounds for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

Once his party’s health spokesman, he had first-hand experience of the “excellent care” at Addenbrooke’s after suffering a stroke.

Geoffrey, 64, said:

They were marvellous and I have recovered well. It happened at the start of 2016, so it has been a tough year, but I’m thrilled at this unexpected award. I’ve been raising money for the RNLI for 45 years, and have always just got on with things, and something like this is completely out of the blue.

Jane Coston, who has sometimes been dubbed Mrs Milton, is honoured for services to the village.

As a county councillor and parish councillor, she has worked tirelessly for the community, campaigning on many local issues and notching up some notable successes, including the construction of the cycle and pedestrian bridge spanning the A14 between Milton and Chesterton. She played such a prominent role in persuading the authorities to fund it, it is named after her.

She said:

Actually the letter telling me about the honour had the wrong address on it, but I suppose I’m so well known in the village that the postman knew where to deliver it.

I really enjoy what I do, and I’d like to take the opportunity of urging other people to try supporting the community at Milton too, by becoming parish councillors. It’s a struggle to get people to come forward and give it a go.


Please let us know about anyone else who should be included (via [email protected]) and tell us a little bit about them. We will then add them to this post.

Congratulations to all of them!


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This entry was posted in News.


  • Embarassing how many 2010-2015 Lib Dem MPs got Knighthoods. Steve is a nice and genuine person (who I wanted to stand for leader in the past so I’ve a very high opinion of him).

    But his career simply doesn’t merit an Knighthood on any objective criteria when you look at what (eg) sportspeople have to achieve to merit a Knighthood. Is anyone seriously saying that his career and achviements in this field are on the same level as Mo Farah or Andy Murray.

  • @ Hywell Completely agree – and I share your regard for Professor Webb.

    The whole honours system is badly in need of reform with its references to ‘Empire’….. as has been demonstrated by the number of folk who have refused an ‘honour’.

    Mr Gladstone was always Mr Gladstone – no embellishment was needed.

    Lib Dems with knighthoods I’m afraid send a message of privilege and entitlement which conflicts with any pretence of tackling social issues.

  • Steve Webb may have been a great pensions minister, but he couldn’t or wouldn’t rein in the mad policies of IDS in the rest of the Department.

    Shirley Williams was so valued by the party that when she and Bill Rodgers offered to mentor lib Dem, Ministers, they were turned down.

    Sir Danny Alexander – reason enough to scrap the whole honours system.

  • Can it be only eight years ago that a journalist overheard a conversation on a plane to Inverness between Nick and Danny about Professor Webb ? Is this why Steve has had to wait so long ? Most revealing……

    The Independent 1 December, 2008. Nick to Danny……

    “He’s a problem. I can’t stand the man. We need a new spokesman. We have to move him. We need someone with good ideas. At the moment, they just don’t add up.” But he added: “We need to keep him in the cabinet. As a backbencher, he’d be a pain in the a–e, a voice for the left. And we can’t move him before the spring.”

  • Interesting article

    Unfortunately it sums up the Liberals in Coalition, fixated on achieving a specific thing while the Tories were allowed to get away with murder and blame it all on the Liberals or take the credit for any achievements. While the Lib Dems could point to some achievements the present government soon rolled them back. I’m afraid as people look back they will regard the Lib Dem leadership as naive and hopelessly out played by the Tories as Lenin said they became the Tories “useful idiots”. Hopefully they have learned their lesson, next time, if there is a next time insist on PR not negotiable no matter how hard you scream or your tame press whine.

  • As a Liberal Democrat and a Remainer, I think the politician most deserving of an honour this year is Mr Zac Goldsmith, for without Mr Goldsmith there would be no Lib Dem revival and little hope of sabotaging Brexit. Thank you, Mr Goldsmith, a thousand times thank you. If not a knighthood, at least a year’s supply of jam.

  • Richard Underhill 31st Dec '16 - 1:09pm

    Honours come in two types, those which carry a seat in Parliament and those which do not.

  • Slightly off topic, but the whole Honours system is not fit for purpose.

    Max Whitlock won a bronze medal in the all-round gymnastics event, which is Great Britain’s first medal in this Olympic event for 108 years (108 years) . Days later he won the gold medals in the Men’s Floor and Men’s Pommel Horse events, becoming his country’s most successful Olympic gymnast, and its first Olympic champion in Gymnastics history and he is awarded a lowly MBE

    Andy Murray in 2013 becomes first British Wimbledon champion in 77 Years and this year becomes the wold number 1 and gets Knighted. He already earns millions of pounds a year in competition winnings and endorsements

    Why does Andy Murray’s achievement deserve so much more recognition than that of Max Whitlock?

    The whole system is unfit for purpose and should be scrapped.

    Ex MP’s getting Knighthoods and elevated to the lords so they can claim up to £300 a day at the tax payers expense, just because they are unable to reintegrate into the real world is also a farce.. After losing your job, do what most people have to do who live in the real world, either retrain, do some blue collar work or survive on the dole.

  • matt – I agree that the balance in the sports awards doesn’t seem right.

    But I should point out – as your comment is a bit ambiguous – that knighthoods don’t carry any allowances or other perks. Honours are completely separate from peerages.

  • @Mary Reid
    ” Honours are completely separate from peerages.”

    Sorry about that, I couldn’t help myself going on a bit of a rant lol, I should not have mixed the two 😉
    I do think the whole Honours and peerage system should be scrapped though. It’s open to many backroom deals and slap on the backs.

  • Hywel,

    Pensions reform affects me a lot more than somebody running round a track, or thwacking a tennis ball over a net.

  • Matt
    Andy Murray is the world No.1 – a pinnacle achieved over many years of hard graft, in the public eye and with the weight of exception on him constantly, particularly at Wimbledon.
    Like it or not, this is still the greatest Tennis tournament in the world.
    The pressure on our home grown talent is immense.
    Andy has won Gold medals at back to back Olympics and 2 Wimbledon titles now. This is not a team sport, he has achieved this on his own.
    Unlike Cycling and Gymnastics where copious medals are awarded for different distances and disciplines (often on the same day), Andy does not get a gold medal for every tournament he wins – if he did he would no doubt be able to start to replenish some of the Gold reserves Gorden Brown sold off 🙂

    Seriously though, I have immense respect for Max, but he is still young, in addition to my point re multiple medals for multiple disciplines above – his time will come, he has plenty of time to prove his achievements were no flash in the pan.

    Andy and Mo were undoubtably the stand out sporting achievements of the year.
    To achieve and maintain that standard over 4 years is true talent and dedication, so I believe the Knighthoods have gone to the right place as regards sport.

    Also, remember Andy got twice the number of votes as anyone else in the recent Sports Personality of the Year and has won it 3 times (more than anyone else) – so I believe the public generally recognise that his achievement really is something special.
    Hopefully as a result of many more youngsters now being inspired to take up tennis, we won’t have to wait 77 years before the next Wimbledon champion.

  • I have nothing against sport but we should recognise it for what it is (especially football) the opium of the people. The Romans long ago realised that if you provided bread and circuses the plebs would be quite. Sport has started to fulfill the same purpose in our modern world. The problem is it only works, until it doesn’t. What do I mean by that, well in the words of Max Bygraves “I wanna tell you a story”. The story is a simple one, in the office I worked in they talked footie morning, noon and night with the odd bit of other sport, holidays and dalliances thrown in; then came the redundancy announcements and the talk died. The most important game of the year came round and it was talked about for half an hours tops, then back to the new top topic of conversation that was, how dare they bin bag us, management should do this that and the other. Reality had bit and they didn’t like it, half of them voted Brexit on the back of it.

  • John
    I’m really sorry here, but I really do need to make this point:
    People engaging in political debate are often seen as somehow, high brow, out of touch, difficult to engage with on a level outside politics and other more disparaging remarks. I don’t agree with this generally as I think many people, particularly those who contribute to this site, have a great deal to offer and are just as passionate about what interests them.

    I have to say though, that your “put down’ of our great sporting achievements above shows I believe, a lack of understanding of the value of sport both to motivate and inspire huge numbers of our youth, and the almost religious zeal that many sports and ‘sporting heros’ are held in by many adults in this country.

    It’s the kind of affection, loyalty, and passion for a team or individual that many politicians can only dream about.
    Do not underestimate the place of sport in our National Pride – this is one area as a country in we punch way above our weight.
    Sport brings people together across religious, race, sex beliefs and creed like almost nothing else does .

    Nelson Mandela made the point much better than me:

    “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair.
    “It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all kinds of discrimination.” – Nelson Mandela, May 25, 2000

  • Lorenzo Cherin 31st Dec '16 - 7:05pm

    I am a great believer in a fair and ethical honours system. Honour for good work.

    Katie Piper should be Dame, or anything as high up the scale as possible , nothing is too good for her achievements.She hasn’t even been given an mbe ! Thats worse than farce insult !

    Sports stars should not get any honours unless for services over a long career , retired , helping others . To be brilliant at something and successful and young does not merit any extra pat or nod .

    Frank Bruno CBE , I can accept . He has a career that is over and been there and done that in aspects of his own life .

    Sir Ian McKellan and all the great acting and cultural stars , mainly , and rightly , get honours for the terrific extra work for charity.

    Why not Lord Simon Weston ? A hero.

  • @Mike S
    ” Gymnastics where copious medals are awarded for different distances and disciplines (often on the same day)”
    But that just prove that gymnasts have to be absolutely proficient at multiple disciplines requiring a tremendous amount of hard graft and determination {I am not implying tennis players dont}
    “Andy does not get a gold medal for every tournament he wins” Actually, if they win or come 2nd they tend to win cups, plates and an extortionate amount of money with lucrative sponsorship deals

    “Seriously though, I have immense respect for Max, but he is still young, in addition to my point re multiple medals for multiple disciplines above – his time will come, he has plenty of time to prove his achievements were no flash in the pan.”
    As do I, I think this young man is a remarkable role model for boys and girls and shows just what can be achieved through extremely hard work and dedication, but the career time span of a gymnast is nowhere near the same length of a tennis player and they will never earn the same level of earnings or endorsements. The most Max can hope for in a few years time is either sports presenting at gymnastic sporting events, reality TV or Cirque De soleli {To be clear I am not mocking those things} I am just pointing out the fact that after years of hard work, sacrifices and dedication, limited earnings/ winnings Max’s opportunities are far less than someone like Murray whose career earnings and sponsorship’s runs into the millions and he is set up for life.

    Murray get’s all this recognition because he is part of a sporting event where A list celebs, parliamentarians, Prime Ministers, Aristocracy and Royalty all get to rub shoulders with one another.
    A gymnast, is never going to get that level of recognition either during his career or after.
    To my mind, this proves the way in which the honours system rewards people is way out of whack and needs to go

  • Mick Taylor 1st Jan '17 - 2:55am

    Quite honestly people who do well on their own chosen field have their own reward. Scrap the whole honours systems and peerages. A reformed second chamber should be elected, not appointed by party leaders.

  • Dont really care about who got honours, more concerned about figuring out what if any rights my non British wife has after Brexit, and by extension if I should wind up my business and leave to get away from the uncertainty. They can give an MBE and OBE to Eddie the Eagle for all I care.

  • The real purpose of the honours system should be to recognise outstanding achievement or service, especially when this is not widely known to the public. For this reason, I am sceptical bout honours to sportsmen, because they are generally given for the same medals or wins for which they are already widely known. Steve Webb achieved some important things on pension reform, which are not widely known, so I think that he is a good candidate for a knighthood.

    However, the honours system is very class biassed. A person who does voluntary or charity work and is able to do this at a national level through wealth or connections can get a knighthood, but somebody who is equally committed but only has the opportunity to contribute locally gets an MBE.

  • The honours system is a cosy way of widening the inclusiveness of the establishment. I’d also get rid of retired ex military types becoming Lord Lieutenants in the shires.

    As a citizen not a subject, I think it says a lot when the headlines in the national media gives the same prominence to an outrage in Turkey as it does to a 90 year old hereditary monarch not going to church because she has a lingering sniffle.

    Sadly, unless things change, I see a ruritarian farce of a country disappearing from the world up its own isolation and pre-occupations in 2017. That video of Ms May standing around at an Eu meeting as Billy-no-Mates says it all.

    End of rant…. Happy New Year to one and all. Let’s hope it gets better.

  • Tony Dawson 1st Jan '17 - 1:19pm

    Is it OK on here to say that knighthoods are just plain silly? A throwback to a dim and distant feudal past which is one of the things Britain needs to get away from, Brexit or no?

  • Far too many are awarded Queen’s honours and far too many seemingly because of the circles they run in rather than their work over many years to help people, for example Gary Barlow or Karen Brady.

    Andy Murray may have achieved incredible things on the tennis court, and is a lovely chap to boot, but he’s been rewarded for this one hundred times over with international recognition, a huge salary and a golden postbox. There is limited reason that he deserves further recognition for this reason in the form of a Queen’s honour, and if he’s revealed to have been using tax evading schemes then arguably he’s deserving to a negative degree.

    In my opinion, the Queen’s honour list should only be for those who have done charity/voluntary work or something which doesn’t quite fit under this heading but can also be described as selfless work.

  • @DJ

    Agree entirely with your post

    “In my opinion, the Queen’s honour list should only be for those who have done charity/voluntary work”
    Absolutely, this is where the honours system should start and end if we are to have an honours system at all

  • Simon Banks 1st Jan '17 - 7:51pm

    Well, Steve Webb has probably achieved more for more people than sundry sportspeople. But the whole system is ridiculous. If you achieve something major, well done. Why get a meaningless title for it?

  • We shouldn’t have an Honours system. I mean no disrespect to Steve or Shirley or any of the other recipients, but honestly. Why are we so lame about this sort of thing? Why don’t we become the first party to say that on the death of the present Queen, that’s it. No more honours. People who have them can keep them, but we let it die out. I think that’d actually be a very popular policy.

  • I think it’s nice to see people getting rewarded for doing good deeds and the overwhelming number of awards do go to “normal” people. It’s a lovely day out at the palace for the recipients and they and their families will remember it for the rest of their lives. Perhaps there are too many politicians and sports stars, but why get rid of a system which brings joy to some very deserving people. Congratulations to all those who have been honoured.

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