Tuesday, 16 June 2009

The Political Expediency of Knighthoods

Curiously, as the time grows close for Michael Birt to step into Sir Philip Bailhache's shoes and become Bailiff, Geoffrey Rowland, the Bailiff of Guernsey, has received a long overdue knighthood.

Geoffrey Rowland became Bailiff in 2005, and by 2007, disquiet was already been shown in our sister Island, as he still had not received a knighthood, which had, up to that point, been seen as a tradition for Bailiffs of both Islands.

SURPRISED islanders are dismayed at the omission of the Bailiff from the Queen's New Year Honours. Geoffrey Rowland had been widely expected to receive a knighthood and islanders were left wondering what lay behind the snub against the Bailiwick's first citizen. Every Bailiff since at least 1884 has received the honour in a tradition that is regarded as a reflection of the standing of the Bailiwick in the eyes of the UK Government. The recent precedent has been that the Bailiff has been knighted within three years of his appointment. Mr Rowland is entering his third year.(1)

By 2008, questions were being asked of Jack Straw why nothing had yet been done, but no replies were forthcoming in the public record, and this was still the situation in June of that year.

JACK STRAW will be asked to explain why Guernsey's Bailiff has not been knighted. Tory MP for Romford and vice chairman of the All-Party Channel Island Parliamentary Group Andrew Rosindell will table questions to the Justice Secretary's office this week.(2)

Three years after his installation as Guernsey's first citizen, Bailiff Geoffrey Rowland is still waiting for the knighthood that has generally accompanied the position.(3)

Some light was being cast on the reasons for the delay, as there was a denial that it was for political reasons, although strangely this denial did not explain why the precedent of knighting Bailiffs had ceased. It is hard to give credence to a blanket denial when no detailed explanation was forthcoming.

Bailiff Geoffrey Rowland (pictured) has been kept waiting longer for a knighthood than his recent predecessors and was considered to be in line for one this time... A UK Cabinet spokesman denied that Mr Rowland was being passed over for political reasons and said he could not comment on people who were not on the list. (4)

And finally, probably when the Islanders had given up on the idea, Geoffrey Rowland received a knighthood this June:

GUERNSEY'S Bailiff Geoffrey Rowland receives a knighthood in today's Queen's Birthday Honours... He said he was honoured and surprised to be recognised for his services to the Crown and community in Guernsey. He knew it would give his family cause for celebration and he hoped that others would welcome the news too (5).

Geoffrey Rowland, who became the island's bailiff in 2005, is being honoured for services to the Crown and the community of Guernsey. (6

So why was the Bailiff of Guernsey passed over for so long, and why was he finally knighted. As to the former question, I have no explanation, except to suspect - despite the denial - a degree of political motivation. With regard to his being knight now, at this late hour, I would pose the following question:

What would the average Guernseyman's reaction be if the next Bailiff of Jersey received a knighthood, and their own Bailiff had not done so for over four years?

In respect of this, I'd give good odds that Michael Birt will be knighted within a year of taking office.

(1) http://www.thisisguernsey.com/2007/12/31/why-did-no-10-snub-bailiff/
(2) http://www.thisisguernsey.com/2008/01/11/bailiff-in-honours-question/
(3) http://www.thisisguernsey.com/2008/06/16/islanders-happy-at-three-mbes/
(4) http://www.thisisguernsey.com/2008/12/31/none-worthy-surprise-as-honours-miss-island/
(5) http://www.thisisguernsey.com/2009/06/13/knighthood-and-mbes-for-islanders/
(6) http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/guernsey/8097702.stm

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