Michael Gove has bravely undertaken the task of defining “Britishness”.
It was a typical politician’s knee-jerk reaction to manage the “Trojan Horse” scandal. He’s hoping that the more we argue about what constitutes Britishness, the more we will forget the actual issue.
Cameron would have us believe that said definition of Britishness will be taught in schools. Oh yes? And who will monitor it? How will it be quantified? How will it be assessed? What sanctions will there be for non-conformance? It’s a joke and I’m sure everyone can see it.
However, since he has chosen to employ this distraction, many people are joining the game of definitions. Why should I be denied the same fun? Fortunately, the answer is very simple.
- It isn’t democracy – many countries are democratic but they would never be described as having British values. France and Germany anyone?
- Rule of law? Many countries have it and some to a much greater degree.
- It isn’t economic freedom. Countries such as Malaysia and Estonia have much more than we do and no-one would describe them as British.
- Freedom of speech? Nope. Our American cousins have it enshrined in law. There’s nothing specifically British about it.
I could go on but it would be pointless, and for a very good reason. Britishness involves all of the above and more, but we don’t need to define them as part of Britishness because they all fall under the one category that does define us – fairness.
It is our belief in fairness that defines us.
We believe in the fair application of the rule of law – which is why we want the police to catch criminals and not to harass people for breaking arbitrary speed limits or quoting Winston Churchill in a built-up area.
We believe in fair economic freedom – the ability of individuals and companies to reap the benefits of their labour but without exploitation.
We believe in a fair definition of tolerance – equality for all and not a tolerance that favours one section of society over another.
Every British person knows what is and isn’t fair. It is cultural, in that it is absorbed from those around us.
It is enduring. It has been borne out of a thousand years of struggle between interests. It has allowed us to live in a largely violence-free society for centuries (Civil War notwithstanding).
Sadly, it is under threat. It is ironic that the most Europhile party – the party that would more than any other to destroy Britishness – is the one that has raised this question.
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