Former politician Ken Livingstone has announced with quiet dignity on national radio that he ‘jumped at the chance’ to turn down a CBE.
Livingstone explained that he didn’t think politicians should be eligible for the honour, but at the same time wanted as many people as possible to know that he’d been offered one.
“Obviously, the Queen, the prime minister and millions of other people thought that I deserved to be recognised in this way”, said Livingstone. “But turning it down as noisily as possible is a lot more rewarding than going to The Palace.”
Livingstone revealed that only his wife knew he’d turned down the award at first, but her failure to share the information on Facebook ‘left him with no choice’ but to broadcast the fact in the meek surroundings of his own radio show.
“The lines are open, but I’m not suggesting you phone in and say how proud you are of me”, said Livingstone. “But if you do decide to, I suppose we can discuss it in hushed tones and then say no more about it, until after the next song’s finished.”
Ken Livingstone CBE (Declined) quietly revealed that he didn’t want every single person in London to bow to him and call him ‘sir’, but if they insisted he’d do his best to endure it and maybe sign their copies of his autobiography.
Traditionally, people who refuse an honour are urged to keep quiet about it, for fear that repeatedly banging on about it might make them look like a self-promoting prick. Fortunately, Livingstone is thicker skinned than most.
The proud-yet-humble ex-mayor is considered to be something of an expert in being rejected, and he was quick to show a waiting crowd another way of dealing with people who bring up the awarding of unwanted titles.
Leaning away from the microphone of an Evening Standard journalist, he suggested ‘only a Nazi war criminal’ would bring up his very, very quietly declined Venezuelan Medal of Distinction.