Entering the debate on national identity and religious tolerance, the Prime Minister will declare an end to “passive tolerance” of divided communities, and say that members of all faiths must integrate into wider society and accept core values.
To be British is to believe in freedom of speech and religion, democracy and equal rights regardless of race, sex or sexuality, he will say.
It\’s very difficult indeed to think of anything less British than insisting that there is some State approved mantra that defines whether you are British or not.
We certainly used to have such a system: at various times you could be burnt at the stake for either believing in transubstantiation or not believing in it. But the development of British society over the centuries since then has been about the basic point that we are the British and that you, they, the government are just the people we hire to do the scut work of society on our behalf.
We\’ll believe what we wish as we wish, thank you very much, not what we are told to nor what is defined by others asw being acceptable that we should.
To be British therefore means that you, we, us, are entirely able to believe in the disgustingness of Teh Gayers, if that\’s what floats our boat, that those who partake of the Demon Rum are damned to all eternity and that the law should be changed to save their souls, that witches aren\’t just deluded spinsters, that privilege (the real meaning of which is private law and thus not equal rights for all: see aristocracy) is the defining point of a civilised society and so on.
To be British is also to insist that whatever you atually think about these things is going to have fuck all to do with how the law works or how we\’re going to let you treat other people. You might think that your sister should die for having sex outside marriage: a vile belief but one that you\’re entirely entitled to hold. Just don\’t do anything about it, for if we do we\’ll hunt you down.
Cameron\’s entirely missed the very heart of Britishness. He\’s saying that this set of beliefs define us, something which simply isn\’t so. Indeed, to insist on a set of beliefs is entirely unBritish. It is actions, or even actions not taken, which define us. The Wee Frees get to believe absolutely anything they want about booze, including not offering equal rights within the Church to those who partake. But they don\’t get to impose prohibition upon the rest of us. Catholics get to believe that remarriage after divorce means leaving polite society: but they don\’t get to make that the law for us all.
And Conservative politicans get to tell us what they think we should believe: and we get to tell them to stuff State thought control up their jacksies.