He wants more gongs for people who do “quiet humdrum jobs, and those like Captain Tom Moore” rather than recognition for celebrities and film stars. The author and journalist made the comments as he spoke about his new BBC history series, New Elizabethans, based on his book. In the final episode, he describes the Queen as a constant in our lives and a symbol of Britain abroad.
Asked if the Queen’s honours list still had a place, he said: “Yes. I’m not a massive fan of the gong system as it is at the moment. There are too many people who get gongs for being very good at well-paid jobs they enjoy – or being on TV or whatever.
“Not enough people get gongs for quiet, humdrum work, people helping their communities and the people around them and going the extra mile. Captain Tom Moore was the sort of guy who deserves a gong, but does every very highly-paid TV person or film star deserve lots of gongs? I don’t think so.”
He said the British public will sorely miss the Queen when the time comes.
He added: “The Queen has been continuity all the way through. When she goes, we’re going to be absolutely shocked by how important she seems to have felt to us.”
In three episodes, Marr, right, looks at figures in business, culture and politics who have contributed significantly to transforming Britain during the reign of Queen Elizabeth II.
There are familiar faces such as Sir David Attenborough and Sir James Dyson but more unexpected ones such as Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in England.
The show, he said, is “about how much we’ve changed since the 1950s”.
He said: “The real big changes are in our heads, about sexuality, class, gender and Britain’s place in the world. And these changes have been shaped by individuals.”
In his research the former newspaper editor found that crime-of-passion killer Ruth Ellis and movie star Diana Dors had appeared in the same film, Lady Godiva Rides Again. He said: “The fact that they knew each other and their lives paralleled each other’s so closely, was something I didn’t know. I thought, ‘Wow! That’s a great story!’
He also has special praise for Sir David Attenborough and said: “He is the ultimate national treasure.
“His great cause, which is pollution, species extinction and climate change, is the biggest issue facing humanity. He’s also such a nice man, which always helps.”
● New Elizabethans by Andrew Marr, BBC Two, Thursday, 9pm