Was Great Britain ever my country? Like Nigel Farage, I was born in Britain to British parents, and educated here. I see he did not go to university. He says “I want my country back”, and now follows in the footsteps of bankrupt fascist Nicholas Griffin, former leader of the British National Party, by attempting to foment race hatred in Oldham. Griffin failed to get even one local councillor elected there.
In a speech in Pennsylvania, he said, Let me take you to a town called Oldham in the North of England where literally on one side of the street everybody is white and on the other side of the street everybody is black. The twain never actually meet, there is no assimilation. These, folks, are divided societies in which resentments build and grow.
He does not actually mean “black”, but “Asian”. The town has an Afro-Caribbean community, which is integrated as far as Griffin, Farage and their ilk allow. I met with them at my church. It has an Asian community, mostly in particular areas rather than one side of a street. I met with Asian-heritage people at work. I went to the homes of Black Asian people. I counted them as my friends. Farage is wrong. We met, ate together, played together.
Farage writes of the values that underpin British civil society, but gives little hint of what they are. A National identity based on our Judeo-Christian heritage. But some of my best friends are atheist. This seems to exclude: what about our Islamic, Buddhist, Sikh and Hindu heritage? And, historically, Christians have been homophobic: what does he think of that?
Theresa May named British values when she was Home Secretary: regard for the rule of law, participation in and acceptance of democracy, equality, free speech and respect for minorities…
Everybody living in this country is equal and everybody is free to lead their lives as they see fit. We are free to practise any faith, follow any religious denomination, or ignore religion altogether.
You don’t only get the freedom to live how you choose to live. You have to respect other people’s rights to do so too. And you have to respect not just this fundamental principle but the institutions and laws that make it possible. Democracy. Equality. Freedom of speech. The rule of law. And respect for minorities.
We must always take care to distinguish between Islam – a major world religion followed peacefully by the overwhelming majority of one billion Muslims worldwide – and Islamist extremism. Islam is entirely compatible with British values and our national way of life, while Islamist extremism is not – and we must be uncompromising in our response to it.
Freedom and co-existence, and uncompromising opposition to the Enemy Within. At the same time, her Home Office was implementing its “Hostile Environment”- the actual words they used- to expel British citizens and people with a right to be here, because they had not retained particular paperwork. Records of National Insurance payments were not counted.
Not every country is democratic, and not every country allows people to “lead their lives as they see fit”. Mrs May is an ally to Saudi Arabia, promoting the arms sales which enable the Saudis to bomb Yemen into famine. So her British Values are for British People, not for foreigners, just as the British Empire was a tool of oppression and wealth extraction under a veneer of brotherhood in a “Commonwealth of Nations”. Hypocrisy has always been a British value; and while dangerous humour and satire is, thumbing our noses at those in power, that is international.
In contrast, here are Will Hutton’s Labour values: the recognition and celebration of international interdependence in the pursuit of justice, solidarity and fighting climate change; tolerance of the other and joy in diversity; commitment to equality and enfranchising workers.
I believe in human rights. The Conservatives want to restrict human rights law, by fixing it in 1948 rather than allowing it to be living and developing. They name certain rights granted which they oppose, such as the right of prisoners to vote, or to have some hope of release at some time in the future. They want the European Court of Human Rights no longer to bind UK law. They state in their policy pdf that they want more power to deport people.
When Mr Farage got his country back, after the Referendum, I felt I had lost mine. Now I feel it belongs to neither of us in that way: we cannot demand that it be inclusive, or hostile to Muslims and immigration generally. There are all sorts of people here, each with a voice in stating what their values are.