Diane Abbott hits out at report into racism in Britain
Around 100 Order of the British Empire recipients have launched a bid – called ExcellenceNotEmpire – for the word to be ditched because of links to our colonial past. Public figures who once accepted honours now want it renamed to be an “inclusive source of recognition, celebration and patriotism”. The campaign is urging new recipients, to be announced today in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list, to back the call.
Jamaican-born Sir Geoff, professor emeritus at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, said: “My ancestors were enslaved and fought to get their freedom from the British Empire.
“Therefore that’s part of my history so I don’t want it removed. The fact we change the word won’t change history.
“So it’s a deception that doesn’t actually mean anything. I’m not into that kind of falsehood.
“It may mean something to them emotionally but removing it will not remove the empire.”
He added: “Instead of removing Empire from OBE, let’s try to remove racism from society.”
Sir Geoff Palmer has called for a change to OBE wording
Anti-woke campaigner and Tory MP Lee Anderson said: “I have knocked on thousands of doors all over the UK and this has never come up once.
“These people need to speak to some real people who will tell them in no uncertain terms that they do not speak for the vast majority of us.
“Some people will never be happy until we have lost all connection with our own culture.”
Campaign organisers say it is about recognising Britain’s colonial, imperialist past and “acknowledging the harm and trauma it caused”.
The Order of the British Empire covers DBE, KBE, CBE, OBE and MBE ranks.
Many figures involved, who often work in business or for charities, mention their honours on social media profiles.
They say many would-be recipients have turned down honours over the association with the empire and its history of slavery. They include poet Benjamin Zephaniah, who rejected an OBE in 2003.
People of colour who also rejected an honour include spoken word artist George The Poet and Liverpool’s first black footballer Howard Gayle. Poppy Jaman, one of the
campaign’s founders, was made an OBE in 2018 for services to people with mental health issues.
Benjamin Zephaniah rejected an OBE in 2003
She said: “References to the British Empire in romantic or nostalgic terms are offensive and deeply hurtful, particularly to those whose families and ancestors suffered.
“Using Empire within a national system for honouring integrity, achievement and excellence is not right for our country any more.” She added: “This small change sends a powerful message that we as a nation are growing, we are inclusive, and we embrace change for good.”
Fellow founder and Shelter chief executive Polly Neate was made a CBE in 2019. She said: “The association between the honours system and the British Empire is an obstacle that prevents many people from accepting honours.
“Having accepted mine, I have a responsibility to try to change that.” Last year broadcaster and former children’s mental health tsar Natasha Devon, 40, who was made an MBE in 2015, put her name to an open letter seeking the change.
But the Cabinet Office said yesterday there were no plans to change the wording.
It said: “There has been considerable reform to the honours system in the last 25 years to ensure it is inclusive. There are no plans to change the name of the Order.
“We are delighted to see significant improvements in the diversity of the honours system, with 15 per cent of awards going to people from black and minority ethnic groups in the most recent list.
“We will continue to work to further improve diversity in the system, including by working with communities who are under-represented in successive honours lists to encourage nominations.”
Should Britain cut its link with colonial past?
No says Leo McKinstry
The woke warriors are relentless in their campaign to trash Britain’s heritage.
But this kind of self-flagellation has to be resisted. The call for change is not a genuine appeal for modernisation but a cynical, politicised attack. In the woke mindset, traditions must be jettisoned because they form part of the rich, romantic tapestry of our national identity. The word “empire” might seem anachronistic but the same could be said of so many parts of ceremonial life.
We no longer have knights in armour, but we give out knighthoods. It is absurd to claim the system is harmful.
It is noticeable several virtue-signalling agitators were not so traumatised as to refuse their honours.
Yes says Maurice McLeod
Being awarded an honour by your country must surely be one of the proudest achievements of anyone’s life.
The idea that your work has been recognised and your compatriots believe your efforts have benefited their lives must be incredibly affirming.
But for those of us with an awareness of our history, being given an honour linked to the British Empire tarnishes the gesture. Poet Benjamin Zephaniah said on turning down his OBE: “I hear that word ‘empire. It reminds me of slavery, it reminds me of thousands of years of brutality.”
The pandemic showed us that heroes come from all sorts of backgrounds. A modern forward-facing society should have an honours system that reflects this.
We do not have an empire anymore but we do all strive for excellence.
Oxford students could be entitled to compensation if their teaching is disrupted by an academics’ boycott over a statue of Cecil Rhodes, Downing Street has said.
Students and lecturers called for Cecil Rhodes’ statue to be pulled down
More than 100 academics at the University of Oxford are refusing to give tutorials to students from Oriel College or attend talks there after it decided to keep its controversial statue of the British imperialist.
The college’s governing body last month said it would not seek to move the statue from outside the building – despite years of campaigning.
The academics say the statue glorifies colonialism and the wealth it produced for the college.
Rhodes had been a student at Oriel and left £100,000 – about £12.5million in today’s money – to the college through his will in 1902.
Number 10 said: “We expect universities to take appropriate action should any student be seriously affected by these actions, which could include compensation. We believe in protecting academic freedom but universities have a duty to maintain good quality tuition.”
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