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Brian Paddick writes: Swearing an oath to British values would be superficial and divisive

At the weekend the Conservative Government proposed that civil servants and other holders of public office should be required to swear an oath to “British values”.  I suggested that such a move would be superficial and divisive and here’s why.

This is a reaction to ‘The Casey Review: a review into opportunity and integration’ where she found small pockets of minority communities who were not integrating with the rest of society.  These people represent a tiny proportion of the UK population but the report had the effect of further demonising minority communities generally and the Muslim community in particular.  Of course, we should do everything we can to encourage people to integrate.  We need to provide English language courses for those who find it difficult to communicate and we need to tackle the racism and xenophobia that makes some people feel unsafe in their own communities.  Promoting “British values” is not the way forward.

For a start we are the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.  Apart from the far more encouraging tone of a being a United Kingdom, and not excluding Northern Ireland, I personally find Great Britain has echoes of the inglorious past of the British Empire. While this may  not be relevant to many young people today, it may be significant for older generations whose origins are in the Indian sub-continent.  Some “British values” from colonial times are ones we have thankfully left behind.

The Government has not yet defined “British Values” but they say they include democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect, and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.  These are not uniquely British and you do not have to delve too far back in our history to discover that some of them were not very British at all.

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