I write in response to your invitation to readers to offer comments on the above article (Pledge of loyalty to British values).
Over recent years we have had a succession of politicians identifying our nation as being ‘fragmented’, ‘broken’ ‘sick, ‘alienated’ or ‘dis-enfranchised’. These views were reinforced by the regional statistical breakdown of the Referendum Vote in 2016. The politicians (probably correctly) nominated the reason for tensions in society as a lack of support for ‘British Values’. However when challenged to identify these values, the most they are able to articulate are a random 2 or 3. (Tory Party manifesto 2015 cites three – security, democracy and freedom and even these are not specifically cited).
A classic example of such a patronising attitude towards the general voting public was displayed by Sajid Javid (Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government) who recently cited British values as:- The Law, Sovereignty of the Crown in Parliament, Private property, institutions, history and culture, sport and fair play, patriotism, freedom (of speech and expression), institutions. Unfortunately, I would only classify one of these (freedom of speech and expression) as a ‘pure value’ the others being just titles of things. Interestingly, most of the things he has listed as being genuine values do not even appear in the last Tory Party manifesto in 2015. This lack of an explicit list of British Values in their manifesto is quite interesting when compared with the exhortations by the Tory government to schools in 2014 to teach British Values, such as democracy, rule of law, individual liberty, mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs. In other words the British Values of the Tory Party much depend on what day of the week it is and which party member is addressing the subject to which audience.
So let us try and clarify the issue of values for Mr Javid and his party.
Values are a set of recognised/accepted moral standards which underpin conduct by a person, group or institution. In other words, values are made meaningful, not by what you say, but by what you do.
This raises the issue of assimilation versus integration of immigrants.
Assimilation is where immigrants ‘become totally immersed in the indigenous population, whereas integration means that they remain in ethnic groups, abide by their own cultural values, standards and practices, but within the law of the country in which they are living.
However, whether immigrants choose to assimilate (live out British cultural values) or integrate (live out their own cultural values within the law of the land where they are living), is not a problem. The reason no problem exists is that these so-called ‘British Values’ are not just our property as many other cultures also share some, if not all, of the same values?
So how do we move forward?
The first step would be to engage the nation in a debate aimed at identifying and agreeing a set of common values that would be acceptable to all citizens in Britain whatever their ethnic origins. Secondly, to have these enshrined within a Bill of Rights that would apply to every person who wishes to live in the United Kingdom. If this was the situation whereby the law is guided by such values, then there would possibly be no need for future immigrants to swear an Oath of Allegiance
However, if such a Bill of Rights was to be created, then it would first have to identify which values should be enshrined in such an Act of Parliament. I offer the ones identified from my own research:
Accountability, advocacy, charity, commitment, common-sense, compassion, decency, democracy, duty, faithfulness, freedom, gallantry, governance, harmony, honesty, hospitality, humility, inclusiveness, industriousness, integrity, justice, mercy, modernity, preservation, resilience, respectfulness, restraint, rights, security, service, tolerance, transparency, unity (NB. There are many alternative names contained within these values).
If such a set of values were to be both identified and agreed, then this would act as both a re-vitalisation tool for our society and also help to create social harmony.
These values would also create a strong base which would inform and underpin everything we believe, say or do, in all areas of society and for all members of society whatever their origins. Finally, this would give us all fresh hope for the future.
So let’s stop these politicians forever ‘banging on ‘about British values. They need to get them identified and enshrined in law, but first we have to educate them.
Dr Alec C. Carrotte