Post Office campaigner Alan Bates knighted in Birthday Honours, as Imelda Staunton and Tracey Emin made dames

15 June 2024, 06:54 | Updated: 15 June 2024, 06:55

Alan Bates, Imelda Staunton and Tracey Emin were given honours in the birthday list
Alan Bates, Imelda Staunton and Tracey Emin were given honours in the birthday list. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

Alan Bates, the campaigner who uncovered the Post Office scandal, has been given a knighthood in the King’s Birthday Honours list, while actress Imelda Staunton and artist Tracey Emin were made Dames.

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Former subpostmaster Mr Bates has insisted he is not a hero - which he learned of while watching ex-Post Office boss Paula Vennells at the Horizon IT inquiry.

The lead campaigner, who is the title character of the ITV drama Mr Bates Vs The Post Office, said he hoped the honour would be "another string to my bow to help me go forward and get some finality for people".

Over 1,000 people across the UK were given honours on Friday evening, ahead of the King's official birthday on Saturday.

Gordon Brown was given the highest award - being made a Companion of Honour.

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Postmasters Campaign Spokesman Alan Bates
Postmasters Campaign Spokesman Alan Bates. Picture: Getty

Ms Emin, known for her 'My Bed' conceptual artwork, was made a Dame, along with Harry Potter actress Ms Staunton and fashion accessories designer Anya Hindmarch.

In sport, cyclist Mark Cavendish was given a knighthood, former cyclist Chris Boardman and former Liverpool midfielder Graeme Souness were made CBEs, while former England footballer Karen Carney was made an OBE

In the showbiz world, Armando Ianucci was made a CBE, and Duran Duran frontman Simon Le Bon, Countdown's Susie Dent, Strictly Come Dancing's Amy Dowden and singer Rebecca Ferguson were all handed MBEs.

File photo dated 27/05/22 of artist Tracey Emin who has been made a Dame
File photo dated 27/05/22 of artist Tracey Emin who has been made a Dame. Picture: Alamy

Reacting to the knighthood, Sir Alan, of Llandudno in north Wales, said: "It was a bit of a surprise, it sort of came out of the blue.

"I'm quite honoured by it - to be recognised for the work that I've done over the years.

"It's been a hard slog over many years."

Sir Alan went on to explain how he had spoken to the Metropolitan Police about the investigation into the Horizon scandal, watched some of Ms Vennells' inquiry evidence, learned of his knighthood and saw a General Election be called in the space of a few hours.

Imelda Staunton
Imelda Staunton. Picture: Alamy

He said: "I went out and got a sandwich and came back into the inquiry waiting room, just hanging around for the start, and looked at my emails.

"And there was this letter from the honours committee, dated that day on the Wednesday, and asking me for my response by the end of the day, the same day.

"Then, within a few hours, the election is called.

"So, you can imagine, it was a bit of a mixed day that one - it's no news and then all news, isn't it."

Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown. Picture: Alamy

Sir Alan added: "I just wondered whether they'd done it to divert everyone off Paula."

Sir Alan previously turned down being made an OBE while Ms Vennells held on to her CBE award because it "felt wrong" - but calls for him to be knighted after the former chief executive returned her honour were backed by Number 10 earlier this year.

He was one of more than 550 claimants who brought legal action against the Post Office, known as the group litigation, over the Horizon IT system between 2017 and 2019.

Trial judge Mr Justice Fraser concluded that Horizon contained a number of "bugs, errors and defects" and that there was a "material risk" that shortfalls in Post Office branch accounts were caused by the system.

More than 700 subpostmasters were prosecuted by the Post Office and handed criminal convictions between 1999 and 2015 as Fujitsu's faulty system made it appear as though money was missing at their branches.

File photo dated 26/06/22 of Mark Cavendish
File photo dated 26/06/22 of Mark Cavendish. Picture: Alamy

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Former Labour leader Mr Brown said he felt "slightly embarrassed" about being made a Companion of Honour, which is limited to just 65 people at any one time, adding that he preferred to recognise "unsung, local heroes".

Dame Tracey, who is known for her autobiographical and confessional artwork, said: "Dame Tracey has a good ring to it. I'm very, very happy. Another brilliant surprise in my life."

Dame Imelda said she was "thrilled" to be made a dame for her services to drama and charity.

She said: "I feel genuinely humbled to be recognised on the same level as the amazing actresses, all the great dames, who have led the way for so many of us."

Armando Ianucci
Armando Ianucci. Picture: Alamy

Cycling sprint star Cavendish, 39, who is on the overseas list under his Isle of Man address, said he was "truly humbled" to be knighted.

He said: "It's always been the biggest privilege to represent my country, and seeing cycling as the sport, pastime and mode of transport I've given my life to, grow in Great Britain during the span of my career, has given me joy and pride beyond words."

Professional dancer Ms Dowden, who was diagnosed with Crohn's disease at the age of 19, said being made an MBE for raising awareness of inflammatory bowel disease was "beyond my wildest dreams".

She said: "I accept it on behalf of all those who live with Crohn's disease, and will continue campaigning to raise awareness for and research into this terrible chronic illness."

File photo dated 22/04/18 of lexicographer, etymologist and author Susie Dent
File photo dated 22/04/18 of lexicographer, etymologist and author Susie Dent. Picture: Alamy

Ms Dent, who appears in Countdown's Dictionary Corner, said she would celebrate her honour "on behalf of word lovers everywhere".

She added: "I'll do my very best to continue spreading the word, quite literally."

Duran Duran singer Le Bon said being made an MBE was "incredible" and "totally unexpected".

He added: "These last few years have been some of the most important in Duran Duran's career, and this is a bright but humbling highlight as our journey continues."

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Alan Bates reacts to Paula Vennell's 'rehearsed' testimony

Choreographer c composer John Rutter and historian Niall Ferguson were all also knighted in the list.

Resident choreographer of the Royal Ballet Sir Wayne said it was an "incredible honour" and choral music composer Sir John said he "never dreamed" that music would "bring me the honour of a knighthood".

London Stock Exchange chief executive Julia Hoggett was made a dame and financier Bill Browder was given a knighthood for his human rights and anti-corruption work as head of the Global Magnitsky Justice Campaign.

Revenue and Customs chief executive Jim Harra was also made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath, which recognises the work of senior military officials and civil servants.

File photo dated 26/05/22 of choreographer Wayne McGregor
File photo dated 26/05/22 of choreographer Wayne McGregor. Picture: Alamy

Several Metropolitan Police officers and staff were recognised for their dedication to public service.

Two officers were recognised for services to the monarchy. Inspector Keith Murphy was made a member of the Royal Victorian Order, and Security Officer Peter David Wilson was given a Royal Victorian Medal Silver.

Three Met officers - Detective Inspector Phillip Carruth, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Helen Millichap, and Constable David Yanson - were awarded individual King's Policing Medals.

Three individual British Empire Medals were also awarded to Met Police staffers, with Jillian Boundy, Inspector Len Stevenson, and Detective Sergeant Viran Wiltshire all recognised for their work in making London a safer place.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said: "These awards are very special and I know every recipient and their families take huge pride in them."

The youngest recipient in the list was 20-year-old Shamza Butt who received a British Empire Medal for her work at the voluntary development programme National Citizen Service on behalf of young people.

Harold Jones was the oldest recipient, who at 100 years old received a British Empire Medal for his fundraising for motor neurone disease charities in Sutton Coldfield in the West Midlands.