MY name popped up in The Times yesterday, just because I sent a tweet on Saturday evening about being asked once more by one of Sir Keir Starmer’s aides to stop using the ‘Sir’ in his name. It must have tickled someone on the diary page. “Now, now he’s won, will you stop calling him Sir,” I was asked, in half-jest, after Sir Keir had sealed the Labour selection in Holborn and St Pancras. It was a follow up to a similar plea which drifted in the direction of the New Journal way back in May. Of course, the funny thing is we only really started using it more widely back then, after feeling it had been wrong to be asked not to. You take the title, or you don’t, right?
I should say that Keir himself has never asked us not to use the title in the paper or on these pages. He’s also, let’s be clear, never asked us to use it either.
Nevertheless, the inches in The Times were enough of a debate-starter to prick up the interest of Eddie Mair’s PM programme on Radio 4, where two other knights discussed the etiquette of it all. You can press the red and white arrow in the soundbite above to hear a bit of it.
Nobel prize winner Sir Tim Hunt says it’s a “slight embarrassment”, before adding: “It’s a great honour, I try to avoid it because I don’t really like being called Tim.”
He says it would have been “more churlish” to turn it down, however. Then diplomat Sir Christopher Meyer counters: “I do understand what Sir Keir’s problem is. He’s a Labour candidate and most Labour candidates would probably find it offensive to their ideology to be called ‘Sir’.”
Sir Tim later reveals British Airways “treats me a little better because of it”.