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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 August 2005, 10:14 GMT 11:14 UK
British identity comments: Your views
Michael Howard

Conservative leader Michael Howard has told the BBC that Britain needs a stronger sense of national identity. Read a selection of your comments below.


The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

There's a lot to be said for being overtly patriotic
Neil, Hertfordshire
Countries such as Australia and the US have daily recognisable practices that promote a sense of identity. Unless the UK promotes itself to its own young people, the combination of disillusionment and high cost of living (esp. housing) and an ever increasing crampness due to our island being relatively small, the promoted attraction of Australia in yesterday's news will see many indigenous people leave. The future looks uncertain for sustainable prosperity. There's a lot to be said for being overtly patriotic.
Neil, Hertfordshire

The only attribute I can think of that comes close to defining a person as British is our sense of humour... though perhaps sense of irony might be a better way of putting it.
Kiaora, Shrewsbury, Shropshire

I have made Britain my home for the past 40 years and multiculturalism is a farce. It means little considering that people of diverse cultural, linguistic and religious (and of no religion as myself) have settled here and it is impossible to define cultural aspects binding people of such diversity. By and large most have come and more importantly settled because Britain offers freedoms for people to be what they are within a broad framework of being British. However, Britishness cannot be defined in narrow nationalistic terms same as the country has no written constitution.
Venk Shenoi, Blaisdon, Gloucestershire

Surely, it would be better to unite through our common humanity
P. Birch, Birmingham
You would have thought after a century of war and destruction all in the name of the nation, the motherland or the fatherland that we should stop pretending that we owe our allegiance to any particular piece of soil. Surely, it would be better to unite through our common humanity than divide ourselves through arbitrary lines in the dirt.
P. Birch, Birmingham

Having recently moved from East London I am at a loss as to what being British really means. If someone asked me what does it mean to be British, I would be unable to answer the question. Due to the vast number of the many diverse cultures that are in this country now, I cannot help to believe that what Britishness this country may or did have is rapidly being diluted.
Robert Bays, Minehead, Somerset

I'm English and have lived in Japan for twelve years. I've tried hard over the years to settle here but the problem is I've never really felt welcome by a sizeable portion of the community and I'm sure a lot of immigrants in the UK feel the same way. If an immigrant is discriminated against on a daily basis how can they be expected to have a real sense of belonging?
Simon, Tokyo, Japan

It's all about striking that balance
Zain, London
I'm proud to be British and proud to call myself Muslim. Mr Howard is right to a degree as we need more people to be able to say this and say it out aloud. Faith, culture, traditions can all co-exist in harmony; it's all about striking that balance.
Zain, London

One thing we definitely do not need is for politicians telling us what we need to be.
Steve Talbot, UK

Multiculturalism is a cliché at the end of the day. If you settle in this country as I have, you respect the law and stick to the rules. If you don't like that idea, go back to where you come from. I feel enraged to hear fellow immigrants discuss the negative aspects of this country and how things should be changed. Ultimately, we are guests here and to test the patience of the indigenous people will only lead to huge problems further down the line.
Bob Majenko, London

As an Englishman living in Peru I cannot agree more strongly with Bob Majenko. I am a guest here, I live with and adapt to the culture. If I am not happy with certain aspects of the culture I do not rock the boat, I simply grin and bear it.
Gary Sargent, Cusco, Peru

I am an American living in the UK and it is strikingly obvious how segregated your country is. There is no sense of nationalism here. Immigrants to the US may have held true to their respective values, beliefs and religions but we have always been proud to call ourselves Americans. Here you are known by where you or your family came from or the religion that you practice. How does that promote cohesion? If you want to live here then you need to learn about this country's past, its values and the things that make it great. You can't stay isolated in your communities unwilling to become a part of society.
Jessica, Oxford, UK

We need to protect these values with all the strength of our institutions and the depth of our culture
Eduardo Loedel-Soca, Dalgety Bay, Scotland
Like me, many people came to live in this great country because we wanted to live in a society based on the values that make a big part of what to be British means to me. A sense of fair play, a place where there is no-one above the law, tolerance, decency, democracy and an unquestionable love of freedom. Unfortunately many philosophies take advantage of these values and in turn try to destroy them and replace them. We need to protect these values with all the strength of our institutions and the depth of our culture.
Eduardo Loedel-Soca, Dalgety Bay, Scotland

I believe it's a good idea to promote unity by identifying as British first but I think you'll also find that people from other cultures and races who are British born would do anything for our country Britain if we feel accepted and not treated differently because of the colour of our skin.
Adebayo Mabo, London, UK

It seems that there are two 'multiculturalism' camps - one that believes the word means everyone having their own way of life and living under the same patch of sky and another that believes that multiculturalism is about sharing wisdoms, ideas, rituals, festivals and faiths to promote understanding. Which one you believe in says a lot about you as a person. Mr Howard, try working in a school in East London - see how much you learn, how your life is enriched by learning about other ways of life.
Bansi Kara, London, UK

Multiculturalism need not necessarily promote an apartheid type culture. Perhaps a simplistic explanation of multiculturalism would be to compare it to a federal system of government. The individual cultures are allowed to flourish within the overall national culture. Many Asians for example maintain their cultural roots whilst adhering to the cultural norms of the UK.
David Kohl, London, UK

He is wrong to say that we should limit ourselves to such a narrow national identity
Tom Dodsworth, Camberwell, London
Multiculturalism is not a policy, it is a fact in many areas of the country. While Michael Howard is right to encourage everyone living here to enjoy the traditions and quirks of British life he is wrong to say that we should limit ourselves to such a narrow national identity. Some of us might feel British first but in the last analysis we are all clearly humans and as a species we have developed many different and overlapping cultures. The problems of how much to tolerate the intolerant and how to enforce security measures should not be mixed up with the joyous truth that some people in the world are finally starting to see past their national identity as definition of who they are.
Tom Dodsworth, Camberwell, London

I have lived in many countries on several continents (South Asia, South East Asia, Middle East, South America). One of the few things that signify Britishness to me and to many people living in other countries that I have met is our sense of tolerance and belief in fairness for all. We live in a rapidly changing world and the British ability to adapt is one of our strengths. I do wish Mr Howard would stop making such vacuous statements and retire.
Dan Smith, Exeter, UK

Michael Howard is absolutely right. Why should it be wrong to call ourselves British? Other countries are proud of their history, and their heritage. Not us. We are not allowed to be. We might offend the newcomers to our society. Isn't it time we all pulled together as one nation (Britain) regardless of what country we come from? Let's wave the Union Flag and be proud of it.
Bill Richardson, Peterborough, UK

We do not live in an integrated society any more
Alastair Johnson, London, UK
I have lived in many countries on several continents (South East Asia, West Africa and the Gulf - all Muslim countries, incidentally), but Britain (my homeland) is, unfortunately, the only one willing to promote this ridiculous and unworkable concept of "multiculturalism", whilst every other country in which I've lived has (quite sensibly) put their whole emphasis on the fact that there should be one culture (their own), to whose rules all immigrants must adhere. Multiculturalism breeds apartheid - if you don't believe that just open your eyes and look around you - and, as a result, we do not live in an integrated society any more, but a fractured one, and, sad as it is, that's getting worse by the day. Those who profess that we're all one big happy family are living in cloud cuckoo land.
Alastair Johnson, London, UK

Michael Howard is spot on - and so was David Blunkett when he was Home Secretary and said that people should be made to "feel British" - as always though, those who tell the truth are shunned by the PC lefties.
Ranil Jayawardena, Hampshire, UK

I'm amused to note that once again a politician is saying we all ought to have more Britishness, without any statement as to what Britishness might be. As someone who doesn't care about football, cricket, Big Brother, drinking until I pass out or the Queen, I'm wondering what Britishness he's referring to that includes me?
Andrew Ducker, Edinburgh, Scotland





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