by Rab Bruce’s Spider

There’s a suggestion that immigrants and public officials should be forced to swear an oath to uphold British values such as democracy, freedom of speech, tolerance, etc. Unsurprisingly, it comes from the Tories who seem to have missed the point entirely. In fact, they’ve missed several points.

For a start, these so-called values are not exclusive to Britain. They are values held dear by a great many people of all nationalities. That may be quibbling, since such attitudes are, or should be, prevalent in British society even if Britons cannot claim exclusive rights to them, but it is an example of British snobbery that we assume an air of superiority because the entire thinking behind this proposal is that foreigners coming to Britain are automatically assumed not to hold the same values as we do.

Another problem with this sort of thinking is that it is, well, intolerant. What if someone refused to take such an oath? While it’s difficult to visualise anyone openly admitting that they do not believe in such values, there may be reasons why some might not wish to publicly declare an allegiance to Britain. In such a case, what happens to them? If nothing, then what is the point of the oath? If they are censured, that’s hardly tolerant, is it? That would send the message that tolerance does not extend to anyone who holds a different view to the Government which imposes the oath.

Another point to consider is that, for people in public service, such attitudes are already required and covered either by legislation or codes of conduct. That’s not to say that a school, for example, is an establishment run on democratic lines with total freedom of speech, but its purpose is to instil such values in its pupils and any teacher who was, for example, espousing the benefits of Fascism to a class would soon find him or herself in trouble.

But the biggest problem is that it is the Government of the UK which itself ignores such values on a regular basis. It is intolerant of the views of independence expressed by Scottish and Welsh MPs, it monitors freedom of speech through sweeping surveillance powers, its democratic election is dominated by First Past The Post, which ensures that power is retained by the existing Establishment, and it actively backs extremist Governments in other countries which have quite appalling human rights records. All of that is before we look at the UK Government’s track record on treatment of the poor and disabled. There are thousands of families living in poverty even though the parents have work; the number of children living in poverty or homeless has rocketed; use of food banks continues to spiral; disabled people are being victimised to such an extent that many have taken their own lives. Amidst all this, the rich continue to grow richer, we spend billions of pounds on vanity projects like Trident and HS2, corporate giants are permitted to avoid paying tax and the ordinary citizen must bear the burden of Austerity which has, as predicted by many economists, utterly failed in its stated objective of reducing National Debt. When it comes to fairness, equality and tolerance, the UK Government is certainly setting a pretty shocking example.