The out-of-date honours system in the UK

Warning – this post is somewhat political and talks about the UK honours system. If this is not for you, may I recommend this?

In the UK we have an honours system. These are titles that the queen gives out to recognise people who have contributed to the country in some significant way. The most famous is probably the knighthood but that is not the one I take issue with (even if it is a bit quirky and old).

The one that I want to talk about is the OBE – The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. That empire bit at the end is what I have a problem with.

What is wrong with empire?

It was been a long time since The United Kingdom of Great Britain had an empire. When we did have an empire, we were the leading cause of colonialism and with that slavery. That last part is something we should maybe not seek to preserve.

In fact, OBE is like two others MBE and CBE. However, the OBE is the easiest to modernise. This is why I will only focus on the OBE for now.

The OBE is turned down quite often. Often the reason is that the person offered the order feels that they cannot be part of a celebration of something that included slavery. I can understand that. This unpleasant history leaves the OBE as non-inclusive. Some might even say, racist.

This is why I have been campaigning for a small change. What if we slightly renamed the OBE to The Order of British Excellence? No empire, no colonialism, no slavery connection. Just a celebration of people who have been excellent in some way.

If the UK government is not ready to make the empire version of the OBE redundant, then at the very least a parallel honour with essentially the same letters could be introduced. It would cost almost nothing as the letters (and thus any headed stationary) remain the same. This would be an easy baby step towards a reform that I am pretty sure we could all agree on.

How can we get an upgrade to the honours system?

The easiest way would be if the government simply recognised the need for change and quickly made said change. With all that is going on, this is not likely to happen by itself. That will always be true. Running something as big as a country tends to run to the rule that the wheel that squeaks the loudest gets the oil.

Thus, we have two ways we can push for a change.

  1. The very easy and quick way
  2. The slower but also effective way

The very quick way comes in at around one minute of your time. Sign a petition and then share it on social media. I just so happen to have a petition you could sign and share right here.

The slightly slower but also effective way is to write to your MP and ask them to support such a change. depending on how fast your write, this could take half an hour or so.

The most effective would be to do both.

Any action is better than no action. So, please, at the very least, sign the petition today and share it with your friends.

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