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This Conservative MP actually thinks the British Empire is still a thing

It's safe to say that the British Empire is a historically-thorny issue for the UK.

At its height, of course, it was famously said that it was an empire upon which 'the sun never set', such was the expanse of territory it covered. In 1922, the Empire comprised 458 million people and 13 million square miles - a fifth of the world's population and a quarter of the world's land mass.

However, after the ruinous cost of the Second World War and the growing desire of subjugated nations to achieve independence, it unravelled from 1945 onwards. Today, the 'Empire' ceases to exist, save for 14 territories outside the British Isles, which were renamed the British Overseas Territories in 2002 - many of these are either uninhabited, or actually self-governing.

But you try telling that to Heather Wheeler, the Conservative MP for South Derbyshire, who tweeted this truly magnificent graphic:

There's so much to love about it. The cutting-edge graphics, the removal of Team GB's medals from the EU tally - something which does actually exist and which we are still actually a part of - and the casual appropriation of our former colonies' efforts. And the idea that negotiating trade agreements has anything whatsoever to do with the Olympic Games.

A sympathetic reading would take the tweet to be a response to this image posted by the European Parliament:

But even that doesn't really excuse the use of an outdated, irrelevant and politically highly-sensitive term.

After all, while historians still grapple with the issues - good and bad - of the Empire, there is no doubt that many people suffered greatly under its existence. Only last week, Howard Gayle, Liverpool's first black footballer, turned down the offer of an MBE because, "it would be a betrayal to all of the Africans who have lost their lives, or who have suffered as a result of empire."

Wheeler seemed unrepentant, telling the BBC that it was a "tongue-in-cheek reply", adding: "My tweet says congratulations to Team GB and the Commonwealth". She added that the mention of the British Empire was "clearly a joke."

Needless to say, Twitter reacted with its usual mixture of anger and humour...

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