Great Britain

Honours committee plan to ditch ‘Empire’ from OBE and MBE ‘due to its association with slavery’

MEMBERS of the honours committee are planning to ditch the word 'Empire' from the OBE and MBE due to its association with slavery.

A senior member of the committee said that with the Black Lives Matter movement, there has been reignited debate over the awards' use of the word empire - and its association with slavery and brutality.

A source told The Sunday Times: "This has been a live issue for some time but there has been heightened discussion about it among members of the committee since the protests.

"Some members favour the removal of the word 'empire' from the existing honours, but others would prefer the introduction of a new medal that better reflects a more diverse 21st-century Britain.

"Although this is currently only under discussion, it is my expectation that it will ultimately lead to a government review."

Among hundreds of Brits who have turned down the honours is Benjamin Zephaniah - who declined an OBE from the Queen in 2003 after branding the award a legacy of colonialism.

The poet and writer, who has Barbadian and Jamaican heritage, said that when he got the invitation he thought: "Me? I thought, OBE me? Up yours.

"I get angry when I hear that word "empire."


"It reminds me of slavery, it reminds me of thousands of years of brutality, it reminds me of how my foremothers were raped and my forefathers brutalised."

Official records show 22 people have turned down the chance to be knighted, more than 450 have declined MBEs and around 200 OBEs.

Celebs to publicly decline honours include singers David Bowie and Paul Weller and film director Danny Boyle.

OBE and MBE winners are decided by honours committees made up of senior civil servants and people who are independent of the Government.

Recommendations go to the PM and then the Queen before they are officially bestowed.

Wigan MP Lisa Nandy is one political voice who has lobbied for 'empire' to be removed from the name because it offends people.

Earlier this year, Nandy said he move would ensure a more inclusive society rather than “alienating” Brits from BAME backgrounds.

And now, it seems as if the committee is taking steps to make that change.

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