Britons, our country needs us to come together so it can thrive. The Daily Telegraph 12 October 2016
- September 9, 2017
- Posted by: tomorrows
- Category: Uncategorized
“Your country needs You!” The fabulously be-whiskered Lord Kitchener thrusting his finger out of a recruiting poster is one of the iconic images on the First World War. These days it is much parodied.
Various spoofs have seen Lord Kitchener replaced by, among others, David Cameron, Captain Mainwaring and Darth Vader. More broadly, the concept has become one of our more successful exports.
From the United States to Russia and from Israel to Brazil, leaders wishing to rally their nations have sought local variations of this very British advertisement. Lord Kitchener and his slogan are, it seems, the last word in national recruitment campaigns.
A century after the famous poster first appeared, it is a double irony that Britain once again needs to run a national recruitment campaign and that we seem to be utterly clueless as to how to go about it.
The row over the publication of Dame Louise Casey’s Report on Integration and Opportunity among Britain’s minority communities shows how much work still needs to be done to build a national consensus around an integration strategy. According to reports, Dame Louise has produced a hard-hitting set of recommendations and the Government is trying to water them down.
Whether this is true or not, it adds yet more controversy to what was already going to be a controversial Report. There is now a real danger that the substance of the Report will be obscured by the row surrounding it.
It is therefore worth taking a step back from the pre-publication hubbub and asking what we want from the Casey Report.
When David Cameron commissioned the Casey Review back in July 2015 he said that we need to “build a more cohesive society, so more people feel a part of it and are therefore less vulnerable to extremism”. Cameron was right that extremists will find their easiest prey among those who do not feel themselves to be part of British society.
As a governor of a predominantly Muslim school in Tower Hamlets, I have long been aware of the danger posed by terrorist recruiting sergeants. Extremists are busily engaged trying to win adherents to their cause.
We should be doing more to win adherents to ours. That is what integration means. The chief test for the Casey Report is whether it gives us practical suggestions in this regard.
Crucially, those suggestions must go far beyond praising “British Values”.
Britain’s values are important but they are a long way from being the whole story.
“Valuing” is just as important. Islamic extremists understand this.
When they extol the glory of holy war, they are also saying: “You can value us and the mission in which we are engaged”. When they invite people to join them, they are also saying: “We value you and the contribution that you can make”.
These claims are colossal fibs but they are also persuasive. Most people, after all, want to identify with a worthwhile cause and we all like to feel appreciated.
This “mutual valuing” is at the heart of any successful recruitment campaign. The extremists are good at this. Lord Kitchener was even better. The Casey Report will be onto something if it takes a leaf from Lord Kitchener’s book.
Kitchener captured the idea of “valuing Britain” in just two words: “Your country”. The brilliance of these words is that they are a blank canvas onto which the reader can impose their own vision of Britain. The words “Your country” might evoke images of rolling hills or of bustling streets.
They might recall the plays of Shakespeare or the music of Elgar. They might conjure thoughts of cricket, highland reels or Magna Carta. The slogan is less interested in what you value about Great Britain than in making you realise that you value Great Britain. In the absence of that realisation, you will be a poor prospect for recruitment.
The second half of the slogan is equally effective. If you want someone to contribute, it helps to make them feel that their contribution would be important and that they would be valued for making it.
There are few better ways to make someone feel valued than to tell them that they are needed. Kitchener could simply have said “Join up!”. He saw that “Your country needs You” would be much more effective.
If we want people to integrate into Britain’s national life we must explain why they should value Great Britain and we must make it clear that Great Britain values them.
Like Lord Kitchener we should also recognise that different aspects of Britain’s national life will appeal to different people and that everybody needs to feel that their particular contribution has an important part to play in the bigger picture. This is what we need from the Casey Report.
There are many ways in which we could demonstrate why people should value Britain but perhaps the best would be to present a diverse catalogue of British success. We should showcase Britain’s entrepreneurial flair, creative endeavour, scientific discovery, military service, sporting success, volunteering spirit and much more besides.
Helpfully we are provided with such collections on a twice yearly basis: in the New Year’s and Queen’s Birthday Honours Lists. We should make much greater use of these Lists.
We should, for instance, promote the Honours Lists more broadly. The celebration of our Olympic heroes provides a useful model. Using the examples of the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony and the forthcoming Rio 2016 Team GB Medal Parade we could establish an annual Celebration of British Excellence.
It would obviously be impossible for all Honours recipients to take part but a representative sample of twenty or so could surely be selected.
These should be the most impressive figures but they should also be drawn from across the country, from all ethnic backgrounds, from all walks of life. Every story should include a direct appeal for others to become involved and a clear explanation of how to do so.
We should also teach these stories in our schools. The recent account of how a British soldier contributed to military victory, of how a British scientist made a great discovery or of how a British industrialist founded a leading company, could inspire young people to consider careers in the armed forces, scientific research or business.
It is important, however, that our representative sample should include public servants and volunteers whose contributions, while still essential, may be less obvious.
This will demonstrate that success and achievement are not always glamorous and that it is possible to make real and valuable contributions to society in seemingly small ways.
This new focus on the Honours Lists should be given a suitably eye-catching launch. It is a happy piece of serendipity that 2017 will see the centenary of the foundation of the Order of the British Empire.
A suitable set of commemorations and celebrations could be the perfect curtain-raiser.
While the commemorations would concentrate on the history of the Order, the celebrations should focus on the Order’s current membership. When one considers that this membership includes, inter alia, Mo Farah, Prof Brian Cox, JK Rowling, Baroness Brady and Sir David Attenborough the possibilities become clear.
Again there should be a focus on how others can help – all those listed above should point firmly into the television cameras and say “Your country needs You”.
Working with a colleague in Tower Hamlets I sent these suggestions to Dame Louise and met with some of her colleagues.
When the Casey Report is published I hope that it will include our proposals in its recommendations. In any case it is now clear that, whether the report is hard-hitting or watered-down it will be subject to intense scrutiny and debate. That is right and proper but we must not allow the noise of the argument to obscure the substance of the debate.
We should also remember that, whatever the report recommends, it would be absolutely counter to the spirit of integration if our efforts in this regard were confined to minority communities.
Helping our country make the most of its potential, taking pride in our collective success and making our fellow Britons feel welcome is national work. After all, as Lord Kitchener did not quite say, “Our country needs us”.