NEWS
27/12/2019 22:30 GMT | Updated 27/12/2019 23:03 GMT

New Year's Honours List 2020: Does It Really Represent Britain?

How diverse are the recipients, who include Ben Stokes, Olivia Newton-John, Nadiya Hussain and Iain Duncan Smith?

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Some of the celebrities awarded in this New Year honours list 

Cricket legend Ben Stokes, Grease star Olivia Newton-John, Great British Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain and Iain Duncan Smith, the former leader of the Conservative Party – these are the people dominating the headlines as the annual New Year’s honours list is revealed. 

But the vast majority of the people given titles and merits are not big-name celebrities. 

A total of 1,097 people will be honoured, with charity workers, campaigners, teachers, NHS staff and civil servants all making the list. 

It’s fair to say the list has changed since 1890, when it was only a few dozen long and contained no women – but how well does the New Year honours list for 2020 represent Britain today? Here is a breakdown of the list – in numbers. 

What Kind Of Awards Have Been Handed Out? 

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Iain Duncan Smith has been given an knighthood 

There are a number of different kinds of honours and awards in the UK honours system. 

The best known are CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire), OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) and MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) awards. 

Nominees can also be made a knight or a dame or be given a BEM (British Empire Medal). 

This year, 36% of people in the honours list were given MBE awards (397), 29% were given a BEM (315) and just over a fifth were handed an OBE (229). 

Who Has Been Given An Award? 

This year, more than half of the people given an honour were women, with 556 (51%) recognised in the list. 

However, the list was not as representative in other ways – just 9.1% of the successful candidates were from a BAME background. 

According to the 2011 census – the most recent stocktake of who lives in the UK – around 13% of the UK is Black, Asian or mixed race, or belongs to another non-white ethnic group. 

The figure also represents a drop from the 2019 honours list, when 12% of the people awarded were from a BAME background. 

In the past, a number of prominent black Brits have turned down honours because of their association with the British empire.

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Howard Gayle turned down an MBE in 2016

In 2016 Howard Gale – the first black player for Liverpool FC – turned down an MBE, saying his “ancestors would be turning in their graves after how empire and colonialism had enslaved them”. 

Gale, who was nominated for his work with the Show Racism the Red Card campaign, said accepting the award “would be a betrayal to all of the Africans who have lost their lives, or who have suffered as a result of empire”. 

In 2003, poet Benjamin Zephaniah also refused an OBE, saying the word empire made him angry. “It reminds me of thousands of years of brutality, it reminds me of how my foremothers were raped and my forefathers brutalised,” he told the Guardian at the time. 

According to the Cabinet Office, 3.3% of the people awarded this year were LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or queer). Meanwhile, the percentage of disabled people given an award has almost tripled from 4% in 2019 to 11% in 2020.