In case you happened to miss it, there is something of a migrant crisis going on at the moment and, as is often the case, it hasn't exactly brought out the best in both Politicians and the chattering classes.
In between slurs about 'Swarms' or 'Plagues' of people there's also been a fair amount of handwringing over Immigration as a whole and more then one person who has fallen back to that most well-defended of moral high-grounds: British Values.
All these Immigrants should have British Values!
If they don't have our Values they shouldn't be here!
So uh, excuse me, (this is a bit awkward) but in my new role as self-appointed spokesman for all immigrants, ever (I'm American, therefore assuming I know what other nations want comes naturally) could you please just give us a list? I mean it should be pretty straightforward; just tell us all those things which all British people universally support without argument and I think I can safely say we will all 100% sign up here and now.
I mean, I have asked before. Quite a few times, as it happens, and so far haven't really gotten a good answer. I've gotten a couple stuttered attempts to explain it, sometimes a few bars of 'Jerusalem' or 'God Save the Queen'. Quite often I've gotten an indignant snort and something along the lines of: "Well of course you don't know! That's the point isn't it?".
So yeah, anytime you're ready. I've got a pen and everything.
OK, tell you what I'll start you off with some of the ones we think you've got and you can just say yes or no. Deal?
Politeness: Ok great, I think we can all get on with this one. I mean, sure it's kind of wishy-washy as a core value goes. Does anywhere encourage people not to be polite? Sure Americans are loud and kind of bossy (trust me, I know) but you usually get a Please and Thank you at least.
Also, is there like a time limit? Opening hours? Because around 1am on most high streets this one gets a little vauge...
Or is it more then that? Is it Etiquette we're missing? Ok that might take some time to learn, but I guess it's worth it as long as we don't get the mickey ruthlessly ripped out of us for assuming everyone speaks like Downton Abbey. Wait...
Democracy: Awesome, big ticket item here. After all Britain is the Parliament on which hundreds of others are modelled. A kind of mother-church for representative democracy all around the world. Again, we're all on board.
Except... Well alot of us can't vote here so seems a little unfair to hold it against us.
Also, is it like a percentage thing? I mean 66% of you turned out this year for the election and that was the highest for ten years. So do we need to take it in turns or something?
Fair Play: Wow, another one we've got no issue with! This is going pretty well huh? I mean, no one likes cheating that's like a universal truth.
Well, except for bankers I suppose...and MPs I guess with that expenses thing. Thinking about it, I suppose there was that time the whole City of London at one point kind of seemed like it was fiddling its books.
Oh well at least no one got hurt
Speak English: OK, hands up to this one, not all of us can speak English. I mean, we'd all like to be able to speak English after all not understanding or being understood is about as much fun as a razor wire bath. Maybe if there were some lessons or something?
Oh, sorry those got cut in 2011.
Also, a couple of the guys wanted me to ask if speaking your own language loudly and slowly to people is an ok substitute? I think they met some Brits on holiday...
Ok I think that kind of covers the basics...do you want to get back to me with the rest? Thanks!
To end on a serious note, I love this country and I love living here. The British are a wonderful, gloriously eccentric people and it's been a real pleasure to get to know you over the past twenty years or so. But I'm starting to think you guys have forgotten just how unique you are, and how intimidating that can be to people trying to integrate.
You are a United Kingdom made up of four countries (five if you count Cornwall, which the Cornish really wish you would) who are United less by a Government and more by a shared history of punching each other and then, when that got boring, going on a world tour to conquer everywhere from Africa to India.
You have a beautiful country and a history of great thinkers, inventers and institutions from Brunel through to the NHS built upon it. There's a heritage here that stretches back 2000 years and yet almost no one I speak to can work out why anyone would want to come and live here!
Unfortunately you'll never squeeze all of that good stuff into some stodgy list of Values.
Maybe if we could detoxify some of the language around migration and meet somewhere in the middle then I know alot of migrants who'd love to show you the values they think make Britain so Great!