Not only can politicians talk openly about British values and the British way of life, but it is increasingly felt that they need to.
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But does it? Are we asking too much of patriotism if we load it with these tasks?
Red, White, Blue… and Brown analyses Gordon Brown’s engagement with the linked issues of patriotism and citizenship over recent years. It identifies two strands in his thinking – the patriotic and the neighbourly – and argues strongly that it is the second of these on which the Prime Minister, and other politicians, need to focus.
Whereas ‘patriotic’ loyalty to the basic civic values of the state is essential and non–negotiable if we are to live together in peace, such loyalty will not necessarily build active and engaged citizens. Patriotism can offer us the rules of the game but it cannot dictate its quality. Ultimately, we need to go beyond patriotism and adopt a neighbourly model for citizenship if we wish to build a strong and healthy civil society.