DUNCAN BARKES: What does it take to earn a knighthood?

HOW HARD is it to pedal a bike really fast?

I only ask because I can’t help feeling that there are more people deserving of a knighthood than Bradley Wiggins.

I have no axe to grind with ‘Sir Wiggo’, who is clearly very fast on his bicycle, but there are others who make a far greater contribution.

What about the nurse who stays after his or her shift has finished to hold the hand of a frightened pensioner?

Or the foster parent who gives love, patience and a home to a damaged youngster?

Or the teacher who buys food for the pupil they know isn’t given breakfast at home.

Surely kindness, altruism and compassion should, at the very least, rate as highly as being a whizz on two wheels?

The New Year Honours list does chuck an occasional bone to charity workers or lollipop ladies, but over the past few years such choices have become nothing more than ticks in the populist box.

Seventy-eight athletes and coaches were honoured last week.

I accept that for many the Olympics was something special, but these people are hardly making a massive contribution to humanity, are they?

And what about the thousands of volunteers who gave up their time to make sure that the Olympics were world-class?

The message is clear: Win a medal and at the end of the year the Establishment will give you some letters to put after your name.

Be lucky enough to have the time, resources and money to reach the top of your game and you’ll be tapped on the shoulders by royalty.

We have got our priorities all wrong.

In our celebrity and populist-obsessed world it is the performers who get all the glory.

Life’s backroom boys and girls are too seldom acknowledged. (And yes, Wiggo’s sideburns are pretty spectacular, but give me a few weeks away from the razor and I could grow an equally impressive set).

Ken Livingstone got it right. On his LBC 97.3 radio programme recently he revealed that he turned down an honour for his work on the UK’s victorious Olympics.

The main reason for doing so was, he said, that he didn’t think he deserved it; that there are far greater but unheard of people who do far more important things worthy of recognition.

I rarely agree with Ken, but on this one he is spot on.

Email Duncan at duncanbarkes@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter: @DuncanBarkes