Blur frontman Albarn, 'Wire' actor Elba top UK honours list

London (AFP) –


Blur frontman Damon Albarn and heart-throb actor Idris Elba were rewarded for their services to music and drama in Britain's New Year Honours List announced Wednesday.

They led the way in the annual announcement of state honours marking the end of the year.

Albarn and Elba were made OBEs -- officers of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire -- while other famous names were made commanders (CBE) or regular members (MBE).

Golden Globe winner Elba, who starred in television crime dramas "The Wire" and "Luther", and films including "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" and "Prometheus", said the honour was "beyond special".

"Awards and honours come in all shapes and sizes and all as significant as the other but this is beyond special, as it comes from queen and country and I couldn't be more proud for receiving this right now," the 43-year-old said.

Singer-songwriter Albarn, 47, who was at the forefront of the 1990s Britpop movement with Blur, was also made an OBE.

Blur reunited in 2009 and in April released "The Magic Whip", their first studio album in 12 years and their sixth consecutive one to top the charts.

A controversial knighthood was awarded to Lynton Crosby, Prime Minister David Cameron's general election strategist, with opposition MPs feeling it was overtly partisan and unwarranted.

The Australian masterminded the Conservatives' first outright election victory since 1992, confounding pollsters.

"It is degrading the honours system -- an insult to the country's heroes," said Labour MP John Mann.

But government minister Matthew Hancock defended the award, calling Crosby was a "great public servant".

- Ebola fight recognised -

Actress Barbara Windsor, a veteran of the 1960s "Carry On" cheeky comedy films and the BBC's top soap opera "EastEnders", was made a dame, the female equivalent of a knighthood.

Other actors recognised included Dame Sian Phillips, Imelda Staunton CBE and David Oyelowo OBE.

On being made a CBE, screenwriter and playwright Peter Morgan said: "I'm surprised, delighted and proud. Even a little embarrassed. Especially since I opened the brown envelope expecting it to be a speeding ticket."

Morgan was behind the film scripts of "The Queen" (2006) starring Helen Mirren, "Frost/Nixon" (2008) and "Rush" (2013).

There were three new additions to the Order of Merit, which is in the personal gift of Queen Elizabeth II and limited to 24 members.

It recognises individuals of great achievement in the fields of the arts, learning, literature and science.

The newcomers are Lord Ara Darzi, one of the world's leading surgeons; Ann Dowling, president of the Royal Academy of Engineering; and vacuum cleaner innovator James Dyson.

Several Britons were rewarded for their efforts in fighting the Ebola epidemic in west Africa.

In total, 1,196 people received an award. Cancer fundraiser Jonjo Heuerman, 13, was the youngest, while 99 year-old Dorothy Start was the oldest, recognised for her decades of community work.