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Should there be an alternative honours system?

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Ten years ago today's guest editor Benjamin Zephaniah turned down an honour from the Queen for 'services to literature'.

What he objected to was the word Empire in the title - Order of the British Empire. He said it reminded him of slavery and brutality. So should we come up with an alternative honours system?

"My problem at the moment with the current honours system is it's often a case of the establishment patting each other on the back," The Independent's Owen Jones told the Today programme. He said he would rename the OBE, the "pillars of society" honour and award it to workers such as nurses and firefighters, "people who aren't already rewarded".

But royal commentator Rafal Heydel-Mankoo thinks the current system is working well: "Over 70% of the honours that are awarded every year go to the unsung heroes of Britain... I have no problem with The Order of the British Empire."

Sharing his concerns, Benjamin Zephaniah offered a possible solution: "What I want is it to be divorced from government and monarchy. That's the bottom line for me."


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