I have the privilege of being a public office holder having been elected as a local councillor in the London borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. The prospect of being ordered to recite an oath of Britishness makes me cringe – not for any lack of patriotism but because I feel that very quality so strongly.
Sajid Javid: Every public office-holder may have to swear an oath of allegiance to British values https://t.co/LBOKirVIWH
— Sky News (@SkyNews) December 18, 2016
The idea of pledging an oath is thoroughly un-British. Of course, the concept is well established in America. (“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”)
Fine. But an attempt to replicate a British equivalent would be quite artificial.
The proposal is well-intentioned but flawed. It comes from Dame Louise Casey’s review into “opportunity and integration.” She proposes that immigrants on arrival should be asked to pledge an oath of of integration with British values and society. She also reckons that we could “increase standards of leadership and integrity in public office” by “ensuring that British values such as respect for the rule of law, equality and tolerance are enshrined in the principles of public life” and proposes “developing a new oath for holders of public office.”
So am I to be asked to pledge a belief in equality? I believe in equality before the law and equality in the eyes of God. Apart from that I am strongly opposed to the idea. Attempts to enforce drab egalitarianism can only ever mean the destruction of individual liberty (which Dame Louise also lists under “British values”); also of
free enterprise (which doesn’t make it onto her list).
Margaret Thatcher once said: “Some Socialists seem to believe that people should be numbers in a State computer. We believe they should be individuals. We are all unequal. No one, thank heavens, is like anyone else, however much the Socialists may pretend otherwise. We believe that everyone has the right to be unequal but to us every human being is equally important.”
— Trumpton (@Trump_ton) December 18, 2016
What about the monarchy? Most of us would regard the institution as pretty central to our Britishness. So should all those Corbynist Labour councillors be instructed to pledge allegiance to the Crown? I regard their republicanism as thoroughly reprehensible. But surely the answer is to vote them out of office. The alternative would be for the Britishness statement not to mention the Queen. If the final version drafted by some committee is so bland as to lack any meaning then what is the point?
Sajid Javid, the Communities and Local Government Secretary, says it should include “respect for the law, even if you think the law is an ass” – which also sounds rather muddled.
There certainly needs to be robust support for integration. The willingness of police officers, teachers, social workers and others to ignore abuses by religious and ethnic minorities out of concern for “cultural sensitivities” has been craven. Of course the greatest victims of this political correctness have been those that were
supposed to be helped.
Refusing to take an oath of allegiance to state-defined #BritishValues is something that I would consider to be a 'British value'.
— Richard Littler (@richard_littler) December 18, 2016
It is not all gloom. Britain is a nation of great opportunity. There is far less division and discrimination than there used to be – and far less than in many other countries. But there is a huge problem with the number of people living in the UK who don’t speak English.
The Casey Review rightly says the “English language is a common denominator and a strong enabler of integration. But Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnic groups have the lowest levels of English language proficiency of any Black or Minority Ethnic group – and women in those communities are twice as likely as men to have poor English.”
That is where the priority must be. But please don’t give us embarrassing platitudes to recite, drafted by officials in a Britishness Unit in Whitehall. Any patriot worth his salt will refuse to utter them.