Britain’s future is up for grabs.

Tomorrow’s Britain aims to help raise aspirations in Britain’s schools and make sure that we get the right result.

British values – valuing Britain

Britishness is sometimes presented as if it were solely a question of values.

Britain certainly has a fine collection of values.  We believe in democracy, freedom, tolerance, fair play and the rule of law.  These are noble ideals and it is right that we should cherish them.  They are not, however, uniquely British.  The Canadians, the Finns, the Dutch and scores of other nations could fairly claim to uphold these principles.  Being British cannot, therefore, be solely about values.

Nor, for the avoidance of doubt, can it be about ancestry or country of origin.  We need only pick up a newspaper to see that people with British parents and British places of birth are capable of behaving in very un-British ways.

Britishness is about nationhood and nationhood is essentially about team spirit.  The events of 2012 showed this well.  Most of us have never met the Queen, so why did so many of us want to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee?  Because she’s our “team captain” and if it’s a big day for her then it’s a big day for the rest of us too.  Most of us have never met Mo Farah, so why did so many of us cheer when he crossed the finish line first?  Because he’s one of us and we’re all part of Team GB.

Teams are about shared pride and shared ambition.

We should be proud of Britain today.  Our athletes win gold medals and our actors win Oscars.  Britain is home to world class businesses. We have free elections and lively political debate.  Our literature entertains the world (you can read about Harry Potter’s adventures in over sixty languages).  We work hard to provide our people with the best education and healthcare.  British scientists are at the forefront of medical and engineering discovery.  Part of being British is feeling that little bit of pride when our fellow Britons do well.

More importantly, being British is about wanting Britain to do even better and wanting to do our bit to make that happen.  People can contribute to Britain’s national life in many ways: starting a new business, working in the creative arts, pursuing a career in public service and volunteering in the community are just some obvious examples.  More broadly it is about engagement with political discussion and a commitment to the broader good.  High aspirations are at the heart of this.

Britishness means:

  1. appreciating this country for what it is
  2. being ambitious about what it could become and
  3. wanting to do our bit to help.

British values are a vital part of being British, but valuing Britain matters even more.