Labour MPs lay into Tories for simplistic plan to ‘unify communities’ by forcing public servants and migrants to mouth the words of a pledge of allegiance
LABOUR ripped apart Tory proposals yesterday to make every public-sector worker and all new migrants swear an “oath of allegiance,” under the excuse of bringing communities together, as “gimmicky and cack-handed.”
Communities Secretary Sajid Javid has signalled that elected officials, civil servants and council workers would be expected to make the loyalty pledge to “British values.”
Mr Javid was responding to part of a report on social cohesion brought out earlier this month by Dame Louise Casey, which argued that some sections of society — predominantly within Muslim communities — did not accept British values.
The Casey review was originally commissioned by then prime minister David Cameron in 2015 as part of a wider strategy to tackle the “poison” of Islamist extremism.
Shadow communities and local government secretary Teresa Pearce said the government needs a “measured and thoughtful” response to the difficult and complex issues facing multicultural and often marginalised communities, rather than superficial appeals to British exceptionalism.
The government should reinstate funding for adult education, particularly for foreign language speakers to learn English, in order to help dissipate communication barriers, she said.
Ms Pearce continued: “Everyone living in Britain today must learn to respect our common values but these are imbued in us through education and our shared experience as lawful citizens, not through oath-taking.
“As yet, we have not seen a shred of evidence that an oath of allegiance to British values would solve any of the problems that multicultural communities face today.
“Furthermore, it is simply unacceptable that Sajid Javid targets immigrants who he claims haven’t made the effort to learn English, when it is his Tory government which has shamelessly cut Esol (English for Speakers of Other Languages) classes and adult learning services.
“The government must look at our schools and our workplaces to set a proper example of the true meaning of British values — and investment in our communities is key to that.
“We must not leap to implement gimmicky policies which are a superficial and cack-handed response to deep-rooted and long-standing problems.”
Mr Javid said he was “drawn” to Dame Louise’s recommendation to bring in an oath of allegiance because it was impossible for people to play a “positive role” in public life otherwise.
Writing in The Sunday Times, he stated: “We can’t expect new arrivals to embrace British values if those of us who are already here don’t do so ourselves, and such an oath would go a long way to making that happen.”
The oath could include phrases such as “tolerating the views of others even if you disagree with them,” as well as “believing in freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from abuse … a belief in equality, democracy, and the democratic process” and “respect for the law, even if you think the law is an ass.”
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said mere words would not combat radicalisation.
She told Sky News: “It will not make a difference to the problems of radicalisation, or integration. I don’t think the oath will make any verifiable difference.”