Javid’s oath is nothing but dog whistle displacement activity

With barely a trace of irony, a minister in the Government which has just passed the most illiberal snooping legislation talked about defending freedom in an article in the Sunday Times (£) today. Not only that, but he seems to think that the answer to  any problems harming community cohesion could be resolved by holders of public office swearing an oath committing them to so-called British values of “equality, democracy and the democratic process.”

He spends the first 8 paragraphs of his article having a real go at Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities, setting up the scapegoats while using the language of tolerance as a fig leaf in which to wrap the dog whistle.

This is a government, struggling to get a grip on Brexit – trying to distract us by scapegoating an entire community of people, reinforcing the horribly divisive rhetoric of the referendum. Does that sound tolerant to you?

As an aside, the phrase “British values” makes me wince – as if respect for the democratic process or support for freedom of speech was a uniquely British thing that stopped at our borders. You can’t confine a basic human instinct to a tiny little blob on the map. These universal values are exercised every day in every part of the world – and often with great courage and bravery. The women in Saudi who defy the law and drive. The people who marched in places like Myanmar and Teheran for democracy. The people who attend gay pride rallies in places where being gay is punishable by imprisonment or even death. 

Anyway, Javid’s oath idea tries to plant the idea that people who would do us harm are in every walk of our life, that there is a terrorist behind every tree. Even if that were the case, an oath is hardly likely to make any difference.  There are more than enough laws, some of them deeply illiberal, to deal with anyone who is suspected of plotting harm.

He talks about problems faced by women. Perhaps funding organisations who deal with domestic violence in every community in the country might be a better way of dealing with the issue. It’s just an idea.

And of course, at a time when distrust in public officials is at an unprecedented high in my lifetime, why not just put another suggestion of untrustworthiness out there?  After all, if people don’t want to take this oath, then they must be up to no good. It’s all very reminiscent of the “nothing to hide, nothing to fear” rhetoric around ID cards.

It’s good that our Home Affairs spokesperson Brian Paddick immediately dismissed Javid’s plan as “superficial and divisive.”

Forcing public servants to swear an oath to British values would be both superficial and divisive.

We should be talking about the universal values that unite us, not using nationalistic terms that exclude people.

The Government must focus on integrating those small pockets of people living in segregated communities.

Instead they are creating hostility towards all minority communities, the vast majority of whom want to be an integrated part of the United Kingdom.

It is deeply worrying that Government ministers merely repeat and reinforce the divisive rhetoric of the referendum rather than deal with the issues of poverty and inequality which drove so many to vote leave.

Rather than come up with a coherent plan for Brexit, (which they can’t because such a thing doesn’t exist), the Governments tries to switch our attention on to something else.

The problem is that if we stand by and allow them to pick on the Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities, what happens when they decide that it’s not British to support the EU or campaigning to stay in or rejoin if we’ve already left. Last week, I saw a  post on social media which suggested Tim Farron should be tried for treason just for wanting a vote on the deal – as if that was undemocratic or something.

We liberals really need to do all we can to point out the flaws in the government’s utterances – and remind people that if they really were serious about “integration” they might like to do something about the hate crimes and abuse Muslims face every day. A friend of mine was walking down the street not long after the referendum. She stepped aside to let someone pass. “I don’t thank your kind.” she was told.

The way to closer cohesion is to reach out those who may feel isolated – and provide refuge and options for anyone in any community suffering abuse. That takes real political will and action – much more effort than any meaningless oath.

 

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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50 Comments

  • I think the oath is a great idea and that there should be absolutely no tolerance, and I really a strictly zero tolerance approach, towards people who come to this country and refuse to conform to basic British values.

    The British values of equality among the sexes, freedom of expression, freedom of religion and freedom of speech in my opinion have to be absolutely non-negotiable with no exceptions. I think that any would be immigrant who cannot accept gender equality, freedom of religion and freedom of speech should not be allowed to be here period. This does not mean that I think people should have to give up their own cultures or identities to come here, it just means that I think that there should be certain basic fundamental values that we say are non-negotiable.

    I also think that the government needs to look into legal ways of finding and removing people who have come here and who don’t accept those things.

    Modern Britain is built on equality, freedom of thought and freedom of speech; to not uphold those basic things upon which western civilisation is built upon would be to commit cultural suicide.

    Fortunately, the majority of people who emigrate here accept our values and should be welcomed, but I strongly believe that those who don’t should be made to leave.

  • @Caron “I saw a post on social media which suggested Tim Farron should be tried for treason just for wanting a vote on the deal – as if that was undemocratic or something.”

    Tim should not be tried for treason as he is merely expressing his opinion, but his opinion is undemocratic. It’s undemocratic because Tim doesn’t want a referendum on which deal we leave under, he wants a referendum that includes an opinion to ignore the vote and not leave the EU after all. That means that he doesn’t fully accept that the vote to leave the European Union must be honoured and that we therefore absolutely have to leave the EU one way or another, which in order to honour the democratic referendum we do.

    This does not mean that once we leave he cannot campaign to rejoin, but not leaving and/or having a re-run is not respecting the result. Think of it like a general election, the winner gets to form the government and only after they have been in government do we get to vote again. To not let the winner form a government would mean that the election was not respected. That’s what Tim is doing.

    If the liberal democrats cannot accept leaving regardless of what the public want then they should never have voted to have a referendum on it. As the first mainstream party to call for an in/out referendum I think the lib dems were the reason the Tories felt they had no choice but to put the question directly to the public. Now that the question has been up to the public and answered by the public there is no democratic way to avoid doing what the public have voted for, the government know this and we are leaving regardless.

  • Eddie Sammon 18th Dec '16 - 10:11pm

    People shouldn’t be expected to swear an oath to “British values”. The island of Britain has no intrinsic values. It’s a fundamentally nationalist thing to do, about superiority of Britain and all things British.

    My views are swayed by the prospect of having to swear an oath to the European Union if I want citizenship. I’ll probably do it anyway, but I don’t want to do it.

    Human rights are important, but there’s no need to add a nationalist slant on them and make people swear allegiance to them if they want to see their family in Britain or whatever.

  • One of the things that I wince at is the fact that there are some liberal / progressives that are so determined to believe that the values of tolerance, freedom of speech, equality, are not dominant in certain cultures but universally supported or practiced around the world; this is (sadly) manifestly not the case.
    In particular, equal rights for women and G.L.B.T people are not supported in a number of countries, particularly those in which Islam is the dominant religion, child brides and FGM, thankfully illegal the west are practised and supported in many countries particularly in East Africa.
    If you think the above is some type of discrimination ask yourself whether you would be happiest for your daughter, or gay son to grow up in Iran, Saudi, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen or perhaps would they be safer and have recourse to the law if not treated equally if they were in Britain, America, Australia, Canada, western Europe etc.
    To suggest that democracy, tolerance, and equality is not more typical of the West, including Britain is incongruous to say the least, but keep on believing it, if it makes you happy.

  • MPs already have to swear an oath, don’t they? If nobody has a problem with that, why would there be a problem with extending the oath?

  • I actually think MPs having to swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen is a bit ridiculous. The people have chosen their representative and they should sit in Parliament regardless.

  • Taranis: That is NOT what the OP was suggesting, and you know it. Caron was quitwe clear in talking about people in places like Saudi Arabia and Iran fighting for rights that we in this country take for granted. It is quite clear from this that she does not believe that those places are as democratic or as liberal as this country is.

    Talking about whether certain values are “dominant” in certain cultures rather begs the question: it is invariably those in a position of power in any community who claim a “cultural” justification for oppression or persecution of particular people or groups within them. Why should the ideas of the Saud family and the Ayatollahs be taken as the last word on the cultural values of the countries that they rule, over the women who campaign for the right to drive and the gay campaigners who risk death? Why should the word of community leaders who support and practise FGM be taken that this vile practice is some sort of valid cultural tradition, over its victims? Becasue, Taranis, by accepting the idea that these are “cultural” ideas, and it’s about “our” culture versus “their” culture, are supporting those people in other communities who claim a cultural basis for oppression.

    And nor are our “western” liberal ideas inherently western. They are rather recent innovations. WW2 was fought against a Western power that wanted to spread a racist, misogynist, intolerant, oppressive value system. In this country, women didn’t get the vote until the early 20th century, and didn’t get equal pay until the 1960s. Race discrimination was also not outlawed until the 1960s, and gay rights did not start to happen until then either. Our so-called “western” values of tolerance and freedom had to be fought for in the west, the same as they are now being fought for elsewhere.

  • Ed – Im an EU citizen and I didnt have to pledge allegiance. Come on in the water is lovely.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 18th Dec '16 - 11:39pm

    ” A tiny little blob on the map .” Caron if this is your view of Britain , I would suggest your arguments above have little weight, and if Javit blows a dog whistle your comments are overblown !

    I do not expect Liberal patriotism to be expressed as a rebuttle to Javit’s daft idea, but I do expect it rather than the sort of knee jerk response from the centre left this government potential plicy is attracting .

    The extension of an oath beyond commons or Lords is pointless and unnecassary . That suffices as criticism. I f you are eve involved in the professional acting world as performer writer or director , you learn to not waste your levels of emotion and gesticulation on every scene . It means less impact when needed!

    I , unlike you , of part immigrant origin, rather than sneer at Javit’s dislike in his own community of people being isolated and not speaking the language , would say , at least I would not play politics with it , and certainly not go for the jugular. He is from the very community you say he maligns , so we can hardly consider him a racist or nationalist !

    The Tories are all over the shop ! Can we not be measured ever ?!

  • As councillors, we sign up to the “7 Principles of Public Life”, drawn up after the numerous sleazy activities under the John Major government. Personally I think this is more important than any putative Oath to British values, which are, as others have pointed out, different for different people. If Sajid javid is trying to get us to sign up to some statement of Tory-UKIP credo, I don’t think many readers or this site would be willing to go along with it! Possibly including ideas like disavowing strikes or direct action, in the same way as used under the somewhat discredited (in liberal eyes anyway) “Prevent Strategy”. Anyone who thinks these activities are not part of historic British values is either incredibly biased, or has had their eyes and ears shut over the years.

  • Caron ‘He talks about problems faced by women. Perhaps funding organisations who deal with domestic violence in every community in the country might be a better way of dealing with the issue. It’s just an idea ‘
    Even now there is quite a good integrated system of services and hostels across the U.K. aimed at supporting who have been or still are experiencing domestic abuse. Each month I attend one of the many multi-disciplinary MARAC meetings aimed at coordinating care and ensuring that women and where necessary their children
    get the best available support and care at the earliest opportunity, it is a shame that there is not similar support available for men who are experiencing domestic abuse.
    In regard to hate crime, was it not the Tories who introduced hate crime legislation?
    I note the previous opinion on the Prevent strategy, and it is not without flaws however I recently underwent some very good training by Prevent, not only does it aim to prevent radicalisation, but it also works with people at risk of becoming involved with / a victim of, drug use, gangs, domestic abuse, sex work and homelessness, it is a shame it is mainly known for the anti radicalisation work, which I agree has lost much of the credibility it ever had, but it does deserve recognition for the other support it offers to vulnerable groups of people.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 19th Dec '16 - 12:47am

    Apologies , later night typing , spelling errors including , Javid above !

    Another aspect the article does not deal with , that the response of Sajid Javid is to a report , the oath idea’s not his but the author of that report , one in which real worries about integration are expressed and this , seen as a way of reinforcing our dislike of illiberal practices , and sending a message to all that we all support values of tolerance,according to the report coverage.

    It is not my cup of tea , but that in itself , is , I say , a very British response , what ?!

    I

  • Tim
    “MPs already have to swear an oath, don’t they? If nobody has a problem with that, why would there be a problem with extending the oath?’
    You have never heard of Charles Bradlaugh?
    I would never swear an oath. I would affirm every time and I am not an atheist.

  • Paul Murray 19th Dec '16 - 7:15am

    I can think of nothing more quintessentially British as a value than telling a Government minister with a misplaced sense of the limits of his authority where to put his proposed oath.

  • Graham Evans 19th Dec '16 - 7:47am

    I find the idea of those who claim to be Christians swearing an oath rather odd. Christianity claims to be a successor of Judaism, not a mere refinement. Consequently the New Testament takes precedence over the Old, and it is quite clear that we should not be swearing any oaths – Matthew 5: 33-37 https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+5%3A33-37&version=ESV

  • Caron, your comments are not in the least overblown.

    The best demonstration of so called ‘British values’ (whatever that means) would be for those required to take the oath to tell Javid to put it where the sun don’t shine. What it proves is that so called clever people (as former head of Deutsch Bank Javid has pretensions to cleverness) sometimes don’t have a clue.

    He certainly didn’t have a clue when under his leadership Deutsche Bank was a lead player in creating the credit bubble of 2008.

    Presumably Lee Harvey Oswald would regularly take an oath of allegiance ……. but it didn’t stop him doing what he did.

  • PS. Anyone who knows anything about the history of the Liberal Party knows about the contribution of Quakers to that history.

    Quakers, of course, refuse to take an oath. By implicitly denying the right of Quakers to take part in public life Javid reveals just how little he knows about British values (whatever they may be).

    PPS. I’m happy to be a liberal blob……. Anyone who isn’t ought to read Sam Johnson on the subject.

  • Jayne Mansfield 19th Dec '16 - 8:27am

    I think it is a bit rich arguing that one of five children of Pakistani son of bus driver who has done well for himself is dog-whistling. Are there those who argue that there is not a sub-set of people from Javid’s own community, no matter how small, who don’t want their communities to be integrated because this would loosen their own control?

    As far as the British Muslim community is concerned, It is about time that someone tried to dal with the problems caused by the self appointed authoritarians, who try to exercise control over their community. They are an embarrassment to Muslims who are already integrated, have forged a British Muslim identity and at the same time show their allegiance to this country through actions rather than words. We hear too much of the former and too little is reported of the latter.

    Pretending that there is not a problem won’t do anymore. Hostility, pre and post Brexit, has not just been directed at the white Christians of Poland, it has been directed at those members of the long standing Muslim community and individuals within it because they are visible. Brexit has simply legitimised giving voice to it.

    It is not good enough that within those communities, too many times the wishes of individuals have had their freedom to be whatever they want to be ignored or denied – because ‘it’s their culture innit’, or a more educated version with the same meaning. Culture is not immutable.

    Sajid Javid, is unlikely to be someone who is more likely to want Muslims to do well in this country than be attacked in the street. I just don’t agree with him, an oath is a symbolic gesture and fairly meaningless in terms of intentions.

    However, as Lorenzo says, the idea seems to come from the Casey review which need careful consideration rather than the usual liberal recoil in horror.

  • The problem with signing up to an oath written by someone other than me is I’m very unlikely to agree with all of it; does that make me unpatriotic, perhaps in the eyes of some but I can live with that. Now a bill of rights and responsibilities, that I could live with.

  • We already have an ‘Oath’; it’s called the ‘Law’! Living in the UK automatically binds you to adhere to this….
    What difference would an official oath make?

    When I first entered the USA I was asked “Do you seek to enter the United States to engage in export control violations, subversive or terrorist activities, or any other unlawful purpose?
    I wonder how many undesirables THAT question weeded out? “Whoops, you’ve got me there, Uncle Sam!”..comes to mind

  • @ Jayne The fact that Javid’s ‘British Values’ stuff comes from the Casey Report should, I think, be taken with a pinch of salt. Dame Louise Casey,Companion of the Bath, has come a long way career wise since she worked for Shelter back in the 90’s.

    More recently, the methodology she has used has been severely criticised by people who know what they are talking about.

    Try googling , “Louise Casey report into CSE represents a missed opportunity for children”. 20 March 2015. to see what I mean.

  • I’ve always been with St Ambrose: when in Rome… tone down your differences and try to fit in.
    People don’t, of course. There are enclaves of Brits living in Spain. Are they obliged to swear allegiance to Madrid, or even learn Spanish?
    So it should be more carrot than stick here, unless laws are broken. And this daft oath is just that, daft, though it sounds quite warm and cuddly if you take out the word ‘British’.
    What I have a problem with is anyone who tries to force anything down others’ throats. And that does include those authoritarian ‘community leaders’ Jayne mentions above.
    I think single-faith schools are a dreadful idea, too.
    Lot of discussion in recent years about the failure of integration (and France and Belgium have big problems in that regard, so in France’s case, a secular society isn’t enough in itself).
    I wouldn’t normally post links, but a few interesting opinions, for those with a few moments:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-24147027

  • “the phrase “British values” makes me wince – as if respect for the democratic process or support for freedom of speech was a uniquely British thing”

    That is an odd implication Just because something is a British value doesn’t exclude it being a French or Turkish value. The concern shouldn’t been with every day people though, the lack of “British Values” is at government level.

    As Lorenzo points out, the best response to Javid’s daft idea is not to give a daft response. Better to point out how lots of his colleagues (and his boss) would be in breach of it. A good response is rarely this overblown.

    David Raw

    “as former head of Deutsch Bank Javid has pretensions to cleverness”

    He wasn’t “Head of Deutsch Bank” he just worked there, I can’t judge how clever he is but he certainly lacks Wisdom.

  • Values, be they British or otherwise, change….
    In my lifetime what constitutes ‘Free Speech’ has changed. Laws on homosexuality, equality, race, etc. have all changed. Violence against children in school/family has changed…
    The list goes on…

  • Little Jackie Paper 19th Dec '16 - 11:31am

    Cllr Mark Wright – ‘Most countries have an oath for those taking new citizenship, and I find it rather odd that we don’t.’

    When my wife did her citizenship ceremony there was an oath involved – at the time there was a religious and non-religious version. Very much against expectations the ceremony was a rather tasteful event that we really enjoyed.

    Are oaths like this anything more than window-dressing? Doubtful. But with citizenship the affirmation did seem to me to add something, even if I can’t really reconcile those two thoughts in my head right now.

    More generally I think some might do well to take the point that whilst liberals are rather good at being opposed to counter-extremism ideas the only thing that too often seems to get agreement is a liking for motherhood and apple pie.

  • Jayne Mansfield 19th Dec '16 - 12:11pm

    @ David Raw,
    It is rare for me to disagree with you, ( I do agree about some of Louise Casey’s earlier work), but I find it ludicrous to suggest, as some do, that people do not have a notion of ‘British Values’ and what they stand for. That does not mean that some other cultures do not have them as their dominant baseline values, although some cultures do not. Nor that some people find them difficult to live up to.

    When we speak of such values as tolerance, I find that a very low baseline for the 21st Century, I would rather that we moved from tolerance to acceptance, and that means the community as a whole, deciding on what the fundamental, over-arching societal values there should be in modern Britain so that we do not become a fragmented society where the best we can hope for is parallel co-existence.

    The people of this country have shown toleration, but given the opportunity of a plebiscite, a majority of those who bothered to vote showed that they didn’t necessary accept the status quo, and at the first opportunity gave vent to their lack of acceptance.
    However, I believe that the issue is wider than Brexit. The growing mood is anti-liberal with the rise of Trump, Farage, Nuttall, Le Pen , Wilders , other dominant former communist governments in the EU, Modi etc.

    At some point politicians are going to have to start hearing, rather than just listening, to what I believe in most cases is frustration caused by those in power who steadfastly refuse to do so. It is so much easier for them to say that people when they have a chance of a vote that is meaningful are easily gulled or worse.

    The term ‘British Values’ might cause a shudder to some, but many in the world are prepared to risk their lives and those of their children, to escape countries that don’t have such assumed dominant values.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 19th Dec '16 - 1:24pm

    The response of those such as Mark and Jayne , from different wings , so called, of our broadly liberal thinking , are so welcome.

    The idea as I mention , of the oath , is from the Casey report. David Raw brings it’s creator into question, no real need to .respected woman . This is but one idea. I have no neatly defined views on such things , but am , as are we supposed to , looking to evidenced based solutions wherever possible . I do not support the idea , but the bringing up of Quakers , with patronising inferences re; Javid and sanctimonious views of Liberal history does not wash . Oaths have been and are adapted to accommodate , different religions or none . The words can vary , the values are shared. In the 19th c a Liberal , David Salomans , member of parliament , first Jewish sheriff and Lord mayor of London, went through these changes, having seen laws change specifically. Oaths can be affirmations, or pledges, as any American child every morning assembly knows as they have to pledge , allegiance , to the flag , in those cases. I do not advocate this , but it is not something to react to as in this article , with unpleasant , patronising comments announcing supposedly better credentials on such things , than a decent , if sometimes wrong , Communities Secretary from an impressive and extraordinarily unifying British success story background.

    The comment on this by Tim , our party leader was , both measured and correct , “doesn’t sound very British !” , as an idea, reflecting his own , as Mark Wright alludes to , definite view of what British is .

    The reaction of , would one believe, Diane Abbot , was far more constructive and nearer mine , and some colleagues above , than is that of Caron in the article . ” not against it in principle,” but , she feels , as do I , it unnecessary .

    We do need to be both a radical and a moderate voice. In this , I listen to people like , Javid , and our own remarkable Liberal Democrat , Majid Nawaz, who are very concerned about our complacency too.

  • @ Jayne, And it’s rare for me to disagree with you, Jayne. I certainly don’t disagree with your main theme, but the devil is in the detail.

    What I object to is applying the term “British” to describe what are better described as ‘liberal values’. Liberal values are, or ought to be, universal and don’t stop at national boundaries. Javid and Casey’s notion that schools don’t try to maintain liberal values and need some sort of new curriculum is ludicrous, and no doubt would come out in any Ofsted inspection..

    As to taking an oath like a Scout to ‘serve God and the Queen’ (which I did many frozen to death years ago) is positively archaic – and to apply such a notion to local government officials and civil servants smacks of big brother. To try to apply an oath to Britishness in Scotland is a joke.

    For once, I have to agree with Councillor Shaw. Having accepted office as an elected member five times my interpretation of ‘duly and faithfully’ is the same as his.

    @ Psi ……. to say that Javid ‘just worked there’ is a bit of underselling…

    He joined Deutsche Bank as a director in 2000. In 2004 became a managing director and, a year later, global head of Emerging Markets Structuring. In 2007 relocated to Singapore as head of Deutsche Bank’s credit trading, equity convertibles, commodities and private equity businesses in Asia and appointed a board member of Deutsche Bank International Limited.

    Despite all that, what he is suggesting now is daft.

  • In the days of Empire we were all brothers and sisters living together.

  • Jenny Barnes 19th Dec '16 - 3:11pm

    notes on Catch 22:
    Captain Black tries to get revenge on Major Major by initiating the Glorious Loyalty Oath Crusade, during which he forces all the men to swear elaborate oaths of loyalty before doing basic things like eating meals. He then refuses to let Major Major sign a loyalty oath and hopes, thereby, to make him appear disloyal. The Glorious Loyalty Oath Crusade is a major event in the camp until the fearsome Major —— de Coverley puts an end to it by hollering “Gimme eat!” in the mess hall without signing an oath.

  • Jayne Mansfield 19th Dec '16 - 6:04pm

    @ David Raw,

    Holy Smoke.

    Cllr Wright made a reference to a comment of mine that required me to a lie down for a while, and now you are agreeing with Cllr. Simon Shaw. Is it the Christmas spirit?

    The notion of extending liberalism beyond borders is sometimes problematic for me. Too often of late it has led to us getting involved in regime change and attempts to bomb countries into something more of our liking, or supplying arms for others to do so. Innocent civilians including children are accepted as unavoidable collateral damage.

    You are the one with a background in education, but Sir Michael Wilshaw has again reported that some schools are still at risk of extremist ‘de-stabilisation’ in Birmingham. Are we to reject the views of current experts, as we claim with disdain, others are doing re: brexit?

    I was a Dib Dib Dibber who swore allegiance to God and the Queen, it was harmless enough at the time, and it didn’t prevent me becoming a republican atheist, so it probably didn’t do any good either.

    It may be that most people from all communities would welcome the opportunity to make an oath of allegiance. Has anyone asked, or once again are the professional commentariat and politicians speaking on their behalf?

  • Hi Jayne, Yes, Holy smoke indeed …… You have to understand that just for once having to agree with the Sage of Southport did indeed cause me real pain and anguish. It had nothing to do with the Christmas spirit and, yes, I too had to have a lie down in a darkened room to recover from the trauma..

    Yes, dib, dib, dib didn’t stop me from coming to the same conclusion as to the monarchy and the deity as yourself. It’s too late for me ever to be convinced about the former but as one approaches the ancient of days it would be great to be proved wrong about the latter.

    Have a great Christmas.

  • I think the Javid suggestion is a bit bonkers, but there is something more troubling with articles such as these. I detect a ‘subliminal sneer’, [from some liberals], at anything that has British or Britishness in its description. This is not a good move for a British political party that wishes to claw its way back from the abyss, as it tries to regain the support of British voters who already see liberals as Tories with yellow rosettes.?

    It can’t have slipped your notice, that british voters have adopted a moreish taste, for kicking the backside of anything that looks like the sneering elitist establishment. It’s not the smartest move, to pin a bullseye to the back of your pants.?

    No-one is expecting you to hum the national anthem every morning as you jump out of bed, but if you are a liberal with some secret aversion to being British, I advise you to deal with that debilitating issue first,.. as a matter of urgency.

  • J Dunn: no ‘aversion to being British’. Just don’t see an accident of birth as something to boast about. (I cheer Wales on in the Six Nations or World Cup, but that’s a different thing!).
    I do have an aversion to nationalism and anything else if it causes division between people.
    My ‘oath’ (and one and only commandment for all religions) would be: “Be nice to other people.”

  • J Dunn
    Britishness is tea and crumpet.

  • Manfarang
    “ Britishness is tea and crumpet”

    That sounds a bit ‘Benny Hill’, if I’m honest.?

    Only when you’ve enjoyed a cream tea up on The Great Orme in mid summer, paying the price of a small family car for the privilege,….whilst looking out at the sea, absorbing the absolute tranquility and thinking,…… ‘I didn’t realise sheep were so bloody noisy’,.. can to truly call yourself British.

  • @Manfarang – “You have never heard of Charles Bradlaugh?”
    No I haven’t, but I have heard of George Fox (and read his journal), who clearly had read his bible (as Graham Evans notes in his reference to Matthew).

  • J Dunne – I will be honest and admit that I am a Liberal who has problems with identifying as British (though English even more). I am a quarter Greek; parts of my family lived in Germany; my father and grandfather were born in Turkey; my other grandfather and his sister spent their working lives in Persia and Iraq; and my children and their children are equally cosmopolitan. When asked my race on forms I put “human”, and if asked about nationality I try to get away with “European”. But I was born here, educated here, have spent my life campaigning for tolerance, diversity, internationalism, equality of opportunity. I don’t have a passport; I can be moved to tears by “Jerusalem”, Elgar, Kate Bush, Edward Thomas, J.L. Carr. I was fortunate to have avoided national service by a few years, but I would have fought for this country against those who seek to harm it if I had had to. We are all complicated individuals with contradictions as part of that complexity, but I refuse to accept someone else’s simplistic ideas about my relationship to the country in which I live.

  • Jayne Mansfield 21st Dec '16 - 9:38am

    @ tonyhill,
    I always told my children that we were pioneers, and on forms I tick the box marked ‘other’.

    I remember a Channel 4 television programme, ‘So you think you’re English’ where people including Norman Tebbit, Carol Thatcher and other volunteers who believed themselves to 100% Anglo- Saxon were given DNA tests with results that surprised them.

    An article, ‘ So you think you’re English’ which appeared in the Daily Telegraph in 2005 is accessible online.

    Before the test, romantic claims were made by certain participants that were similar to what I hope is a tongue in cheek comment from J Dunn on the nature of Britishness. One that excludes me Mr Dunn, but then, despite Teresa May’s assertions, I am quite happy to be a world citizen who has formulated a clear idea of what citizenship means.

  • Why is having a second vote on something undemocratic? People can vote the same way if they want. There is a Liberal precedent – the two elections of 1910. If Brexiteers are so angry about any second vote, they must be nervous.

    The oath idea is indeed a very bad one, even if allowance was made for Quakers and others who refuse oaths on principle. I’m grateful I don’t need to take a citizenship oath, because not only do I reject all oaths, I disown allegiance to the monarch. The rest of the citizenship ceremony, by the way, is excellent.

    I do agree that people who come to a country should embrace some basic values – democracy, the rule of law (but do we condemn all who accept imprisonment or fining to follow their consciences, for example in blocking a road used for demolition traffic, to demolish a locally-loved building?). The problem is defining these basic values. In the light of the Brexit vote and a rise in racial incidents, maybe we should say basic British values include intolerance and suspicion?

  • David Raw

    “Javid ‘just worked there’ is a bit of underselling…”

    I’m not under selling his career; he was certainly well (over?) paid. But to say he was head of Deutsche Bank is too much. Everyone in banking seems to have ridiculously over inflated titles ‘London Global Strategic Head of Paperclips for monitoring and disbursements’ etc.

  • @ Psi Let’s call it a score draw. I’ll have the £ 3 million and you can have the paperclips.

  • tonyhill

    I think Britishness has almost nothing to do with ethnicity or ancestry. Britishness is more a state of mind. Two of the most British people I see, are Scottish comedian Hardeep Singh Kohli, and American writer Bill Bryson. Ironically, both use humour to access the true [and sometimes elusive], richness of the British psyche. I declare that these two chaps, irrespective of their ancestry, are British to their core, .. and anyone who says otherwise will face the wrath of the Dunn…

    When you stop looking for Britishness,.. it will find you, and like an inconvenient stain on a piece of rough cloth, it will never wash out.

  • Katharine Pindar 21st Dec '16 - 3:14pm

    I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading this discussion, which computer problems prevented me from accessing earlier, and I’ve thought, yes, I wouldn’t want to swear an oath of loyalty – it seems too much like having to fly the flag, literally, as so many Americans do. But the question that keeps coming back to me here is, are Liberal Democrat values identical with British values, do we think? And are they different in kind from Labour Party or Tory Party values?
    Meantime I’ve discovered the next by-election is to be in my own back yard, Copeland, which is exciting – but I want more than ever to have a coherent Lib Dem stance on how we would like to see the EU reformed in future. Would be very handy as I canvass.

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