Seven-time Formula One title winner Lewis Hamilton has finally been given a knighthood in the New Year honours list following pressure on the Prime Minister to approve the accolade.
Despite being one of the UK’s most successful sportsmen Hamilton – who matched Michael Schumacher’s record seven titles in 2020 and was voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year for a second time – had previously been overlooked, reportedly due to his tax affairs.
Elsewhere, continuing the trend set by the Queen’s Birthday honours list, there are a slew of gongs for those seeking solutions to the problems posed by coronavirus as the pandemic drags on.
Veteran footballers Jimmy Greaves and Ron Flowers are also made MBEs after a long-running campaign to ensure every surviving member of England’s 1966 World Cup-winning squad gets an honour.
There is a damehood for actress Sheila Hancock, who joked she felt “slightly miscast”.
“I’ve never felt myself this sort of person. It just doesn’t happen to people like me. I feel I may be lowering the tone. I feel slightly miscast, let’s put it that way,” she said.
People striving to end issues such as homelessness, domestic abuse and social isolation receive awards, including Kim Leadbeater – sister of murdered MP Jo Cox – who becomes an MBE.
Hamilton’s knighthood – awarded in the overseas list – may raise some eyebrows, both because of his decision to relocate to Monaco in 2010 and also because he credited his success in 2020 to a new determination inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement.
In November, Motorsport UK and the All Party Parliamentary Group for Formula One wrote to the PM saying it would be “totally wrong” to deny Hamilton a knighthood because his “tax status has been misunderstood”.
The 35-year-old, who was brought up on a council estate in Stevenage, took the knee on the grid and wore anti-racism slogans during the season.
Speaking on Boxing Day, he said: “It was a different drive than what I’ve had in me in the past, to get to the end of those races first so that I could utilise that platform (for Black Lives Matter) and shine the light as bright as possible.”
The honours system, in which most recipients receive titles linked to the Order of the British Empire, has faced renewed criticism for allegedly glorifying the UK’s colonial past.
Earlier this month shadow education secretary Kate Green, herself an OBE, branded the wording of the honour “offensive and divisive”.
Welsh actor Michael Sheen revealed on Tuesday that he handed back his OBE so he could air his views about the monarchy and its role in Wales without being a “hypocrite”.
But the head of the Honours Secretariat at the Cabinet Office has said that while huge efforts had been made to make the list more inclusive, the ’empire’ reference will remain.
Helen Ewen said: “There are no plans currently to make changes in this area – you’ve seen today that we’ve again seen a growth in the number of individuals in black and ethnic minority communities on this list, which we strongly welcome.”
This year’s list is the most diverse to date, with 14.2% of those honoured coming from BAME backgrounds, while 6.9% of those on the list had a disability and 4% identified as LGBTQ .
Many people looking out for the health and wellbeing of NHS staff during the pandemic received recognition for their efforts.
One example is Greta Westwood, chief executive of nursing charity the Florence Nightingale Foundation, who is recognised with a CBE for her work highlighting the mental health toll of the pandemic on frontline workers.
In music, star of the ’90s UK garage scene turned music producer and DJ Craig David is recognised with an MBE.
Other film and TV stars to make the cut include former EastEnders actress Nina Wadia and Coronation Street stalwart Sally Dynevor.
Wadia, who rose to fame in sketch show Goodness Gracious Me, is made an OBE, while Dynevor, who has played Sally Webster on the soap since 1986, becomes an MBE.
Academy Award nominee Lesley Manville is made a CBE for services to drama and charity, and actor Toby Jones, who counts the Harry Potter franchise among his many film credits, becomes an OBE.
One of the big names from behind the scenes to receive a gong is two-time Oscar-winning cinematographer Roger Deakins, who is based in California and is knighted in the overseas list.
He has received 15 Academy Award nominations over the course of his career, winning for the films Blade Runner 2049 and 1917.
Screenwriter and producer Jed Mercurio, who held the nation spellbound with TV hits including Line Of Duty and Bodyguard, is made an OBE.
From the world of fashion, ground-breaking make-up artist Pat McGrath – dubbed the “most influential make-up artist in the world” by Vogue – becomes a dame for services to the fashion and beauty industry and to diversity.
Ms McGrath said she was “truly delighted and humbled” to receive the honour, crediting her mother for inspiring her love of beauty and fashion.
In politics, Angela Eagle, long-time MP for Wallasey in Merseyside and known for her work promoting women’s and minority rights, is made a dame for parliamentary and political service.
Former attorney general Geoffrey Cox QC receives a knighthood.
The MP for Torridge and West Devon caused controversy after advising the Government that it was legal to prorogue Parliament for five weeks in autumn 2019 – a move later ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court.
The oldest person on the list is Anne Baker, 106, from Salisbury in Wiltshire, who receives an MBE for fundraising for the NSPCC.
She is closely followed by 104-year-old Ruth Saunders, from Newbury in Berkshire, who gets an MBE for walking a marathon to raise money for the Thames Valley Air Ambulance.
Mrs Baker, who described her award as a “great surprise and a great honour”, has been helping the NSPCC for more than half a century and normally holds an annual coffee morning, but was forced to take her fundraising efforts online by the lockdown. She set up a JustGiving page which attracted donations from as far away as Austria and the US, almost tripling her usual total.
She said: “We couldn’t hold it this year but we still managed to raise £4,000 instead of having our usual party, so we were pleased and grateful to everyone who contributed to that.”
Among the more unusual efforts being honoured are those of Veronica Main from Hazlemere in Buckinghamshire, who receives an MBE for services to Straw Hat Plaiting and Endangered Crafts Skills.
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