27 August 2015
What are British Values?
David Cameron is big on British values. When he was voted back into Number 10 at this year’s general election, he promised to lead a government for “one nation” and make “Great Britain greater”. The prime minister has spoken time and time again about “actively promoting” British values, seeing it as a reaction to extremism and the increasing threat of terrorists born and bred in the UK. And more recently he outlined the government’s strategy, with measures to tackle extremist ideology.
This includes enabling parents to cancel their children’s passports and allow Ofcom to clamp down on foreign TV channels broadcasting extremist messages. But what are British values, who decides them and how do they affect us? We gave Mr Cameron’s colleagues from the other side of the House, Maurice Glasman, a Labour Peer and Jon Cruddas, MP for Dagenham and Rainham, 60 seconds to explain...
What are British Values?
MG: They are based on the Magna Carta, which brings a balance of power between Parliament, the monarchy and the Church. The combination of liberty and democracy that grew over a thousand years after the Norman Conquest. A respect for private property and the rule of law combined with a strong state that guarantees order and the satisfaction of needs.
JC: I think the ‘British values’ question is slightly tired and predictable. I would prefer to reset it to: what are the virtues that we should nurture here in the UK in order to build the common good? I would start with the seven Christian virtues: prudence, justice, temperance and courage plus faith, hope and charity – the basic mixture of cardinal and theological virtues. It might get us out from under some of the usual values debate.
This allows for a discussion of how we teach and build these virtues in the public square- this virtue based approach allows for a reconciliation of ancient and spiritual traditions within a specific modern British conversation; one that transcends our physiological characteristics and is genuinely inter-cultural in orientation.
What has shaped these values?
MG: Of first importance is the Church that established the rule of law and the prohibition on murder and stealing, which established schools so that people could learn to read and write. It was through the translation of the Bible that people learnt to read and create in the language. The Church also stood up to landlords and the monarchy when they tried to establish a tyranny.
Is this still a Christian Country?
MG: Yes. And I think Christianity is due a revival for it combines conservatism and radicalism in just the right ways. It insists on personal faithfulness, honesty and compassion, but it also sees that there are entrenched injustices that need to be challenged. Above all it stresses the importance of faithful relationships, which is what the country needs most. It is vital that Christians speak plainly and openly about their faith. People understand that there is a big difference between Islam and Christianity and the Christian voice must be louder not softer.
JC: This is still a Christian country; moreover the most innovative, agile interventions in the public policy space in my constituency are Christian ones. Given all of what I have said it is fundamental that Christian contributions are respected and actively cultivated within the public square.
Jon Cruddas is MP for Dagenham and Rainham
Mauris Glasman is a Labour Peer