What are ‘British Values’? I read the phrase quite often nowadays; it is used to to win all sorts of arguments. But I have not come across any generally accepted list. Perhaps we could make a shot at constructing such a list – and one on which we all agree.
I suspect that in practice we appeal to the principle which suits us best. So we may strongly object to Muslim women hiding their faces. I am tempted to agree because I am made uneasy by encountering people whose facial expression I cannot see. An element here perhaps is that the woman in question probably comes from a foreign family. Then there is the argument that people must show their face in court or in official circumstances where recognition is required.
But then I wonder whether I am starting down the path which leads to the state defining what we may wear – similar to the uniforms which schools require. I understand the need to avoid immodest or threatening clothing but just how far do we go? Here’s a thought: what would we think of a woman who walked down the high street with bared breasts? That would, or once would, be perfectly acceptable in other countries. Why is the female breast unacceptable and the male breast acceptable?
How about the baker who refused to make a wedding cake because it had a homosexual message on it? Do British Values demand that the baker had no right to pick or choose, or should the customer have been prevented for setting out a view which is unacceptable to at least a large minority? How would you react to a Christian baker refusing to to decorate a cake bearing the message; “Freedom for abortion”?
I conclude that a British Value here is the acceptance that individuals and groups should have the maximum freedom to exercise their free choices. No such choice should be curtailed unless it is established that this choice causes commensurate damage to our society. Normally this will be a question of balance but in cases of uncertainty the choice of the individual should have the benefit.
With regard to those who, through age or mental capacity, are unable to make rational choices, the guiding principle is the best interests of the individual concerned. This of course includes all individual human beings, which by definition includes the child in the womb.
A final thought is that no one is entitled to condemn the choice of another unless they are prepared to accept that their own choices and actions may be similarly outlawed. Sauce for the goose.