The implications of imposing Britishness

Martin Wolf in the FT yesterday outlined what has become an increasingly common line of thought since the 7/7 attacks.

It is surely worth stating, and teaching, that one cannot be more than formally British without subscribing to the core political values of this remarkable community.

To suggest anything else is dangerous and demeaning. It is dangerous because it destroys political community. It is demeaning because it devalues citizenship. In this sense, at least, multiculturalism must be discarded as nonsense. (Financial Times).

Hat-tip to Mick Fealty at Slugger O’Toole, where I posted the following comment in response.

In a strange way, the demand that emigrants accept British values which has emerged in the wake of 7/7, may have given new impetus to the idea that Britain should adopt a written constitution. After all, if one makes that demand, certain consequences follow.

It has to be clear what those ‘British values’ are. It has to be clear that there is a real national consensus behind them, and it has to be clear that the rights and obligations they establish apply to everybody, not just emigrants.

The only way to do achieve all of that is through a written constitution, ratified by referendum.

The seven principles which Martin Wolf suggests would make a good basis for such a document, but I’m not sure they are as well entrenched in current practice as he seems to think.

English constitutional law does not recognise the sovereignty of the people, although Scottish law, interestingly, does.

A written constitution would be easier to scrutinise than the current system, and might therefore require significant practical reform.

I’m not sure how far these implications have been understood by the politicians who have been demanding that emigrants subscribe to British values.






One response to “The implications of imposing Britishness”

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