No, I’m not going to comment on that and that. . . (you know what). Here’s something else that has exercised my rant cells this week.
I was at a meeting on diversity and minorities. I was told quite forcefully that sharing “fundamental British values” was the way forward for community integration. I didn’t know much about FBV so I’ve looked it up. It’s a policy from the dying days of the coalition in 2014 when Cameron was running scared from UKIP and promising all sorts of things (like a referendum on EU membership) if re-elected. The DfE was given the task of introducing FBV into the curriculum of all schools in England. I can find no trace of this happening in Wales and Scotland. The DfE seems to have forgotten that there was already a subject called Citizenship in the National Curriculum which tackles what it means to be a citizen of the UK. Instead, FBV was tacked on to “spiritual, moral, social and cultural development” across the curriculum. That word “fundamental” sticks out doesn’t it. It’s a bit too close to fundamentalism for my liking meaning, as my old Oxford dictionary says – maintenance of traditional orthodox beliefs in opposition to modernism. To be fair, “fundamental” merely means the base, the foundation, getting to the root of the matter, or a rule. Still sounds a bit authoritarian to me.
So what are these FBVs that we (or rather people living in England) should apparently share?
The first is democracy. This was invented by the Greeks (or perhaps earlier). Britain claims to be the first parliamentary democracy but it was the 1920s before women got the vote and 16 year olds are still denied a vote despite paying taxes, being able to marry and die for their country in the armed services. A democracy where an unelected chamber can delay and attempt to modify new laws. A democracy where most MPs were voted for by a minority of electors and in most constituencies the winning party is unlikely to change from one election to another. That’s something to be proud of is it?
Second is the rule of law. This from a government that has refused to comply with a court ruling that it must do something to improve air quality. A rule of law that in living memory saw police officers being used to oppose striking miners, trap gay men in little used public loos, and infiltrate law-abiding protest groups with forged identities. At least we have an independent judiciary, but that means it’s a self-perpetuating white male judiciary. Something to be proud of?
Next there is religious freedom and acceptance and tolerance of other faiths. Yes, you can believe what you like but the encouragement of faith schools is hardly encouraging a meeting of minds and the last time I checked the CofE was still the state-religion with bishops in the House of Lords. Something to be proud of?
Finally, there is identifying and combatting discrimination. That’s all – the guidance doesn’t say how or what discrimination. This from a government that has targeted the poor and needy for the bulk of the austerity cuts, done nothing to stop the expanding gulf between the rich and the rest of us, and is now encouraging the view that immigrants are lazy scroungers. Something to be proud of?
They are fine ideals to aspire to but I would find it difficult to cheer the UK’s record in these areas throughout recent history particularly in a competition with other nations, particularly some of our near neighbours. Apparently they don’t have to be values unique to Britain, so what is the point? I am proud to be British, like I am proud to be Welsh, European and human, but I will not have my Britishness tested by how loudly I cheer for these fundamental British values.
There that’s over. Now to Jasmine. Here’s a tiny taster of the soon-to-be-published novel number 3 – The Brides’ Club Murder. Actually this excerpt it doesn’t feature Jasmine at all, but here you are:
The Brides’ Club Murder
‘Welcome to Ashmore Lodge, Mr Vokins,’ she glanced at the screen hidden below the reception desk, ‘You have the suite in the Pang Wing booked.’
‘I should hope so,’ Vernon said, ‘and I trust all the preparations have been made for our weekend activities.’
‘I am sure the Manager, Mr Adams, has everything under control, Mr Vokins.’
‘I will ensure that he does. This is a very special occasion.’
‘The Ashmore Lodge is very experienced with special occasions, Mr Vokins.’
Vernon glared at the woman, wondering if she was being insolent. Deciding not to upbraid her, he took the pen she offered him and signed the registration card on the desk.
‘Ah, Vernon, you’ve arrived.’
Vernon turned his head to see a buxom woman in a flowery dress and shoulder-length, shiny black hair approaching him. He put down the pen and held out his hand.
‘Belinda. Pleased to see that you’re on the ball as always.’ Vernon’s hand received a powerful squeeze.
‘Well, as I’m no distance away I like to be here to welcome our guests.’
‘Of course. You have always been the perfect host, Belinda.’
‘How about your journey, Vernon. Not too exasperating I hope.’
‘The train was six minutes late, but one has come to expect that these days.’
Belinda gave Vernon a sympathetic look.
‘Well, you’re here in good time. Some of the girls have arrived but I haven’t see any of your group yet.’
‘Good. They were told not to arrive before two so I could get here first and check arrangements.’
‘Ah yes, Vernon. You’ll want to make certain everything is tip-top, especially as you have a real wedding as part of this year’s programme.’
Vernon felt a stab of annoyance at the thought that the official ceremony should take precedence.
‘Hmm. Yes. Well, that is an exception. Is your good wife here as usual?’
‘Oh, yes. Taking advantage of the calm before the storm to have a swim. Now I had better get on. I want to make sure the ballroom is ready. Shall we meet to go over things?’
Vernon glanced at his watch. ‘How about four-thirty. I should have completed my transformation by then.’
‘Very well. Four-thirty it is.’ Belinda swept off towards the doors into the ballroom. Vernon turned back to the receptionist who was holding out a plastic card.
‘Here is your key, Mr Vokins.’
‘That’s a card.’
‘We’ve gone electronic since your last visit. You just need to hold the key close to the sensor beneath the handle of the door, it will let you into your room. If you do the same as you leave it will lock.’
Vernon took the card from the girl and looked at it suspiciously. ‘I’m not sure what’s wrong with old-fashioned keys. I hope this thing works.’
‘We haven’t had any problems,’ the young woman said.
‘Hmph. You’ll be the first person to hear if there are.’ Vernon reached down for the handle of his case and turned away from the desk. He noticed a slim woman in a pale blue skirt and jacket coming through the doors dragging a scuffed suitcase. She paused, straightened up and flicked her highlighted brown hair out of her eyes. Vernon recognised her. His upper lip wrinkled in annoyance.
‘Nolan. You’re here early. It’s only just two.’ Vernon said.
‘I’ll say I’m early,’ Samantha Nolan replied with a male, Irish voice. ‘Want to get my money’s worth out of this weekend. Cash is a bit tight since my wife threw me out. But you know all about that, don’t you.’ There was a quiver of emotion in Samantha’s voice.
‘How your wife and you resolve your problems is your affair.’ Vernon replied and turned towards the doors leading to the Pang Wing.
‘If only you had thought that before you told her I was a TV.’ The retort resounded across the vestibule but Vernon ignored it…