I arrived back from holiday on Wednesday to find the news media in a kerfuffle about some speech which David Cameron had just made about British values. I didn’t hear the speech, but it did set me wondering what David Cameron considers to be British values, and on whose authority.
My family came to Britain in 1066 with the Norman Conquest (my name Bayes derives from Bayeux, of tapestry fame) and have lived here ever since. I was born in Sussex, raised in London and have lived all my adult life in Hampshire. I went through the state school system, as did my children. So I should think I’m as qualified as anybody to comment on what constitutes British values.
And here’s a list of some of the things I consider to be the essential British values around which I have grown up.
* It’s parents having the choice, even at the sacrifice of one income, to raise their own children, if that’s what they want, instead of feeling obliged to pay random strangers to mind them while both parents go out to work.
* It’s making similar sacrifices so that families can care for their own elderly members rather than sticking Granny in a home and hazarding the chance that she may or may not be well cared for.
* It’s having an NHS which can remain free at the point of delivery to every citizen because it’s untrammelled by the interests of private healthcare companies.
* It’s having a BBC that is truly independent, funded by the licence payer but free from government interference.
* It’s a welfare system that truly provides a safety net for the most vulnerable at the time when they need it.
* It’s a spirit of neighbourliness which welcomes the displaced and the refugee with ungrudging generosity.
* It’s a parliament whose members model respect and kindness towards those whose views they may not share.
* It’s giving the opportunity for everybody to fulfil their potential regardless of background or income.
* It’s a democracy which does not allow national policy to be dictated by unelected plutocrats.
* It’s an education system that imparts wisdom and knowledge, not information and propaganda.
And as far as I can see, Mr Cameron, your government opposes every single one of those values. You may not say that you do, but I can’t hear your words because I’m deafened by your actions.
So I would like to know, just how do you define these British values you want us to espouse and on whose authority have you adopted these definitions? Who is better qualified to decide them than people like me whose families have inhabited and shaped our nation for a millennium?