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Cumbria's Lord Lieutenant calls for end of use of empire in honour titles

Cumbria's Lord Lieutenant has called for an end to the use of empire in honour titles.

James Cropper photo
James Cropper

Sir James Cropper, together with his counterparts in Cheshire and Clackmannanshire, has come out in opposition to its use, saying there should be a ‘more meaningful title for the present times.’

The three men believe the last vestige of colonial Britain should be consigned to history, with one describing the current Order of the British Empire and its variants as “anachronistic and inappropriate to a post-imperial UK”.

The lords lieutenant are responsible for advising the Queen on who should be awarded OBEs, MBEs and CBEs. Their position emerged during a hearing in parliament examining David Cameron’s decision to reintroduce the British Empire Medal, which is traditionally handed to people regarded as unsuitable for higher honours but was abolished by John Major in 1992 as part of his plans for a “classless society”.

The lords lieutenant said they appreciated the Prime Minister wanted the medal to reward those who do voluntary work.

But David Briggs, lord lieutenant of Cheshire, said it was an “unfortunate” title as it was “associated with ‘class’, which we all want to get rid of” and “it seems inappropriate in 2012 to bring back an award containing ‘empire’.”

Sir James Cropper KCVO, lord lieutenant of Cumbria, added that he believed there should instead be a “title more meaningful for the present times, such as the ‘Queen’s Commonwealth Medal’ or ‘Queen’s Medal for Service’.”

The Rt Hon George Reid, lord lieutenant of Clackmannanshire, told the Commons public accounts committee when it was examining the subject that generally “there is unease about the use of the word ‘empire’ in honours awards”.

He said: “One local resident of ethnic origin, whose family came from a former colony, said that he could never accept an honour ‘named after a system his family had fought to abolish’.”

Reid invited the committee to look at ways in which the titles could be changed.

The use of imperial titles was last debated eight years ago, when Tony Blair showed an inclination to change the system, only to back off amid a hue and cry by those who described change as “politically correct nonsense”.

Have your say

Just abolish what I think is a method instigated to keep the general public in their 'place',i.e. the class system is alive and kicking, and should be kicked out entirely.

Posted by Christine N on 12 May 2012 at 11:09

It seems an entirely appropriate proposition considering the "Empire" is very much moribund. Get rid of the whole shambolic system and have something like the Order of Windsor (in the gift of the monarch) or the Order of British Merit? Just a thought

Posted by Irene on 10 May 2012 at 22:15

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