A senior Labour MP has sparked outrage after slamming the Queen’s honours system as ‘offensive’ because awards reference the British Empire – even though she has an OBE herself.
Kate Green claimed there was no justification for ‘branding’ the gongs in colonial terms as ‘it’s offensive’ and could be ‘hurtful to people’ – and has called for reform.
But the Shadow Education Sectary has been blasted as a ‘hypocrite’ after it was revealed that she herself received an OBE in recognition of her charitable work in the 2005 New Year Honours list.
The MailOnline has asked Ms Green if she will return her OBE in light of her recent comments but she has not yet replied.
Tory MPs have hit back, arguing changing the name of the honours system would be an ‘act of cultural and historic vandalism’ as they ‘reflect this country’s history and traditions’.
Senior Labour MP Kate Green has sparked outrage after slamming the Queen’s honours system as ‘offensive’ because awards reference the British Empire – even though she has an OBE herself
In an interview with BBC podcast Political Thinking today slammed the ‘Order of the British Empire’ titles as ‘divisive, it’s offensive and hurtful to people’, and claimed they are ‘really the wrong language’.
But Ms Green still defended accepting her honour – an appointment made before she became an MP in 2010 – as it ‘thrilled’ her father.
She argued that those who are singled out for their work to their community and country should be able to enjoy the ‘huge pleasure that it gives to so many people’ – but insisted that the wording should change.
Ms Green said: ‘One of the things I’ve been looking at a lot in recent weeks is the black curriculum campaign and decolonising our history and the whole curriculum.
‘You can’t excuse or justify that branding but actually it’s deeper than that.
‘I know many efforts have been made to democratise and open up that honours system but it’s still pretty hierarchical of who gets what. There’s a lot more reform that’s needed.’
Furious Britons took to social media to slam the MP – branding her a ‘hypocrite’ and calling for her to hand her OBE back.
Some said her statements devalued the awards given to notable public figures – including footballer and campaigner Marcus Rashford who was made MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list this year.
David Beckham posed with his wife Victoria after receiving his OBE medal from the Queen at Buckingham Palace in 2003
Footballer and campaigner Marcus Rashford was made MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list this year
One Twitter user said: ‘Why are politicians like Labour’s Kate Green, constantly offended by our nation and cultural heritage.
‘I’m sure she isn’t offended being funded by the British taxpayer when millions are suffering hardship and misery.’
Another user said: ‘Lovely message from Kate Green to all the wonderful people who’ve worked above and beyond in the charitable, public and private sector, and been honoured accordingly.
‘Basically ‘your award is offensive and you should be ashamed of it’.’
And another added: ‘You can turn down honours if you disagree with them, I expect to see Kate Green writing to the Palace to ask to be stripped of her OBE.’
Amanda Milling, co-chair of the Conservative Party, echoed the outrage at Ms Green’s comments.
She said: ‘We should not abandon them, just as we shouldn’t rename the Victoria Line, the Royal Albert Hall or the Imperial War Museum, or tear down the countless public monuments, statues and landmarks that tell the story of our United Kingdom.
‘To do so would be an act of cultural and historic vandalism.’
This year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours – published in October after being postponed from June to allow nominations for people playing crucial roles during the coronavirus pandemic – was the most diverse to date with 13 per cent from a minority ethnic background.
It represented a slight increase on the previous highest – 12 per cent in the New Year honours in 2019.
Those who gain awards in the Queen’s honours are decided by committees made up of senior civil servants and people independent of the Government.
Some have turned down their award from the Queen for political reasons.
The Commander of the Order of the British Empire – or CBE is given to people who play a prominent role nationally or a leading role regionally.
CBEs can also be awarded for people who excel in one particular field.
The OBE – the Order of the British Empire – recognises outstanding contributions at a local level.
It can also include people whose roles in one field are so important they become known for them nationally.
An MBE – the Member of the Order of the British Empire – focuses on community contributions which have long-lasting and significant effects and are inspirational to others.
The two most-senior gongs are the Companion of Honour and Knighthoods or Damehoods.
The former is awarded for ‘major contribution to the arts, science, medicine, or government lasting over a long period of time’, the Government’s website states.
Knighthoods or Damehoods are given to those who have made a ‘major contribution in any activity’. This is more often than not at a national level.
Some have turned down their award from the Queen for political reasons.
When poet Benjamin Zephaniah was offered an OBE in 2003 he declined it, condemning the award as a ‘legacy of colonialism’.
The awards will run alongside the Queen’s own gongs – which include Knighthoods, CBEs, OBEs and MBEs
Zephaniah, who has Barbadian and Jamaican heritage, said at the time that the word ‘Empire’ ‘reminds me of slavery, it reminds of thousands of years of brutality, it reminds me of how my foremothers were raped and my forefathers brutalised…
‘Benjamin Zephaniah OBE – no way, Mr Blair, no way Mrs Queen. I am profoundly anti-empire.’
Celebrities who have shunned the offer of being made an OBE or MBE include Danny Boyle, Jon Snow and Stephen Hawking.
This year, campaigners sparked a backlash after demanding the word ’empire’ be removed from the honours.
They claimed the term has an association with brutality and slavery.
A senior member of the Commons honours committee said the BLM protests had reignited the debate over the use of the term empire in the honours system.
They told the Sunday Times newspaper: ‘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.’
Earlier this week, it was revealed that Meghan Markle and
The awards will run alongside the Queen’s own gongs – which include Knighthoods, CBEs, OBEs and MBEs.
Meghan and Harry’s awards will focus specifically on stand-out players in particular fields, court documents seen by
The Queen knighted Captain Sir Thomas Moore in the grounds of Windsor Castle in July this year
These will include: ‘Charitable service, education, science, literature, racial justice, gender equity, environmental stewardship, youth empowerment, health and mental health.’
The awards scheme will be run by Duke and Duchess’s Archewell foundation – which they first tried to trademark back in March.
However, lawyers decided the application was unclear and lacked a signature – and they couple were given six months to send another application through.
A second set of forms was filed last week and they are now under review.