Charity leaders have asked the government and the Queen to abandon the word “empire” in the British honours system, in an open letter to the Times newspaper.
They ask that the use of the word “empire” be replaced with the word “excellence”.
Leaders cited a need for the UK to “break from its colonial past” as a reason for this request.
The letter reads: “We are leaders in civil society and the public sector who have been bestowed an honour under the British honours system. We are deeply grateful for the recognition of our work and that of the organisations we represent, and the public validation it gives to the struggle for social justice that we and our organisations have been engaged in, often for decades.
“We believe that our struggle for social justice must recognise the need for the UK to break from its colonial past and strive for a society that makes efforts to include everyone on equal terms at all levels. This means we are taking a long, hard look at our own organisations and what more we can do to create a fair, equitable and anti-racist society.
“As those who are privileged to have been honoured, we invite the government, in consultation with the Queen, to agree on a simple, yet extremely important change in title, so that honours are conferred in the name of British Excellence and not of the British Empire.”
The list of signatories include Lord Abedowale CBE, who is the former chief executive of the social care enterprise Turning Point, Natasha Devon MBE a mental health campaigner, Polly Neate CBE who is the chief executive of Shelter, Simon Blake OBE who is the chief executive of MHFA, and Poppy Jaman OBE, the chief executive of the City Mental Health Alliance.
Natasha Devon, a mental health campaigner, posted on Twitter outlining the letter.
In today’s Times, several of us who have been lucky enough to receive honours from the Queen have written an open letter asking for ‘British Empire’ to be changed to ‘British Excellence’, acknowledging the damage done & atrocities committed by the Empire historically... pic.twitter.com/7PMedr22iA— Natasha Devon 🌈 (@_NatashaDevon) July 30, 2020
Poppy Jaman OBE, chief executive of the City Mental Health Alliance, also posted a twitter thread on the topic of the letter.
I am a British Bangladeshi. This is my home. I’ve proudly dedicate my career to social good. I love my work, it is purpose-led. I represent British ‘Excellence’. The word ‘Empire’ does not resonate with my sense of integrity. pic.twitter.com/O1HNha7xJX— Poppy Jaman OBE (@PoppyJaman) July 30, 2020
She said: “I am a British Bangladeshi. This is my home. I have proudly dedicated my career to social good. I love my work, it is purpose-led. I represent British ‘Excellence’. The word ‘Empire’ does not resonate with my sense of integrity.”