The Prime Minister’s New Year’s message was widely published with many newspapers using such similar wording that it can surely only have been lifted directly from a Downing Street press release. The reports all seem to start as follows:
David Cameron has promised to crack down on Islamic State (IS) sympathisers, stressing in a New Year's message that all Britons should have "loyalty" to their country.
The Prime Minister said 2016 would be a "test of our mettle" as he pledged action to tackle the "poisonous narrative" which led some Britons to turn against their country.
He said the UK should "revel" in its way of life rather than "appease" extremists, and all who live in the country must sign up to its values.
But what does the ‘loyalty’ that he demands that we all show really amount to? Loyalty to what, or to whom? And what does he mean when he says that ‘all who live in the country must sign up to its values’? Without a lot more definition, this is just meaningless rhetoric – but there is a danger in letting it go unchallenged.
The idea of ‘my country, right or wrong’ is one which I reject absolutely; such jingoism has, historically, been a disastrous creed. From Cameron’s perspective, I guess that means that I will fail any loyalty test that he is likely to set. I don’t think that I’m alone in that. I know that my values are not the same as his either (even though he has proved singularly unable to articulate them effectively). I guess that I’ll fail that test as well.The history of states and leaders demanding that people show ‘loyalty’ and ‘sign up’ to a set of values isn’t exactly a happy one. A narrative which appears to demand such loyalty is as poisonous, albeit in a different way, as the specific narrative which he is condemning. It’s a demand for a degree of conformity which will be anathema to many. It is dangerous for any democracy to allow extreme views such as those being expressed by Cameron to go unchallenged, let alone become the accepted norm.