Let me start by wishing all readers a very happy New Year! I hope 2013 is a happy, healthy and productive year for everyone.
And congratulations to all those whose names appeared in the New Year Honours List.
Quick to catch the headlines were the honours surrounding the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics – most notably the knighthoods for Ben Ainslie and Bradley Wiggins and Sarah Storey being awarded a DBE, making her a Dame.
Mo Farah, Victoria Pendleton, David Weir, Jessica Ennis and Katherine Grainger have all been awarded CBEs and there have also been awards for those who organised the Games – including a Companion of Honour for Lord Coe, who really was in it for the long-haul.
Team GB has never before been so successful and it’s only right that the success of our athletes, their coaches and the organisers are recognised in such a public and special way. However, of the 1,223 people who have been recommended to The Queen for an award, 72 per cent are people who have worked within their communities, either in paid employment or in a voluntary capacity. Carrying on the sporting theme, I was particularly moved by one gentleman on the list – a Christopher Sellars from Derbyshire – who has been awarded a BEM for voluntarily coaching swimming at his local pool – for five days a week for over 30 years! (the BEM – British Empire Medal – was recently re-introduced to recognise those who contribute to creating a Big Society).
A quick look at the full list, shows ordinary people who have quietly been making a difference to their local communities – special constables, fundraisers, school governors, charity workers, health visitors, those who work with the elderly and children with special needs - previously unsung heroes whose efforts are now, rightly being recognised.
Others are recognised for achievements with national or international impact – Second World War codebreaker, 92 year old Raymond ‘Jerry’ Roberts, for example, who was awarded an MBE for services to Bletchley Park. The work he was involved with is widely accepted to have shortened the war by some two years.
I’m delighted to say that, as is often the case, there are some local names on the list. It’s always good when someone from Horsham or West Sussex receives an award and more often than not it’s for charitable work. So congratulations to all those whose efforts have been recognised in this way. But we know that for every one who receives an award there are a hundred who quietly get on and do things without recognition. And that’s what makes our society work.