What are British values, recently so beloved of Mr Gove? The question could quickly drive you mad. Apart from anything else, if the referendum in Scotland goes the wrong way, there will soon be no Britain for values to be British about. Are British values to be inferred from the conduct of present-day Britons (how I hate the abbreviation, Brits), or in some other way – in which case, what?
Look and listen around you: one of the most prevalent of British values is that of mutilating oneself as prominently and in as bad taste as possible. Why, even the Prime Minister’s wife has done so, albeit less indiscreetly than many. Another is that of larding their speech with the word ‘f..k’ at least twice a sentence, which any foreigner in contact with the British has noticed even if his command of our language is otherwise limited.
If there is one ruling value and idea in Britain, it is vulgarity: militant, uncompromising, aggressive and ideological. As if to bear this out, a free supplement to the Sun newspaper, ‘FREE historic edition for 22 million homes’ (and therefore compulsory), was today pushed through my letterbox. Apparently it was to mark the greatest event in history until the next one, the football World Cup.
I opened it to a page with an article by a man called James Corden, whose picture filled half the page, his face painted with the cross of St George, his hands holding a Sun coffee mug. Inscribed over his picture were the words ‘You have part ownership of our hearts… give us something to bbe proud oof and we’ll love you for ever.’
These words were addressed to the manager of the English international football team. I know little of football, but I have noticed that our grossly overpaid tattooed thugs aren’t even very good, by international standards, at what they do, which is hardly surprising in view of contemporary British culture.
Be that as it may, there is something deeply bullying about these words. If the manager of the English national team does not have ownership’ of part of your heart, you are not one of us, not English, let alone British. There is also an implied threat to the manager himself: fail to give us something we can be proud of, and we will turn on you and make a scapegoat of you.
Sponsored patriotism is always repellent, even when its pride is in something better than Britain’s deliberately low IQ popular culture. I hope Mr Gove will remember this.