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  • Jakob Reid

Reform UK’s “Contract with You” is rooted in a deeply flawed idea of British culture, here’s why

By Jakob Reid

Page Three of Reform UK’s “Contract with You” makes for interesting reading. It is the culmination of everything Nigel Farage and his acolytes have been shouting from the hills for years. In a red circle in the top right of the page, you find what I argue is central to Reform’s stated plans for government. 

“Securing our borders to boost your wages and protect public services and British culture and wages”

Nigel Farage has been saying for a fortnight now that this is the “immigration election”, bellowing on every screen he can find about the UK’s situation with regards to its population. However, whilst for many this might seem simple, and appealing, one question has been bugging me for months. What does Farage and Reform UK mean by “British culture”. Whilst Farage can detail his thoughts on protecting public services, and increasing wages, he has rarely ever spoken in detail about “British culture”. Yet this phrase has become central to Reform UK’s messaging. What does this mean though?

I thought, as many people do now, that asking ChatGPT might offer some insights into what this culture actually is. It came back with the most expected answers: “Shakespeare, Chaucer, The Beatles, The Monarchy, Tower of London”. However, within this wider answer, two things stood out to me. The first was “British values” and the second was “tolerance and multiculturalism”. Here is where it is so obvious that Reform’s belief in “British culture” is flawed. Let me explain.

"Whilst Farage can detail his thoughts on protecting public services, and increasing wages, he has rarely ever spoken in detail about “British culture”. Yet this phrase has become central to Reform UK’s messaging. What does this mean though?"

I’d never put much thought into “British values” as a child, merely just remembering that democracy and the rule of law were central to them. It wasn’t until I heard the LBC presenter James O’Brien on the radio, that I began to reconsider the whole notion of “British values”. The flaw in the notion of the values is this, ask yourself these questions, what makes British values any different from French values? Are the values of democracy and the rule of law exclusively British? Here is the problem. The answer is of course, no. The values of the rule of law are not exclusively British, they are universal. Yet somehow many profess that these values are uniquely British.

So when Nigel Farage and Reform UK speak about “protecting British culture”, I think we should be asking first what this culture is, and second, what makes it distinctly “British”. Now, a cynic might perhaps argue there is a link between this proclaimed need to “preserve British culture” and Farage’s assertion that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak “doesn’t understand our culture”, despite living in the UK his whole life. I will leave you to discern what the cynic might suggest. 

Beyond “values” and “culture” is the second point that ChatGPT threw out, that of tolerance and multiculturalism. In the political arena, the question of multiculturalism comes up frequently, with many on the right declaring it as a “failed project” as the former Home Secretary Suella Braverman said last year. What strikes me with the wider notion of “British culture”, is that on the face of it, the wording doesn’t appear that tolerant, or indeed multicultural, yet somehow we are led to believe that these ideas are central to British culture. 

Farage in particular has frequently attacked multiculturalism in its current form, claiming it “actually actively encouraging new groups of people who come to this country to live separately from the rest of us”. So, in terms of the wider Reform UK policy to “secure our borders” by implementing a “freeze on immigration”, we can see instead of Farage seeking to fix what he sees as the problems of multiculturalism through engaging with different groups, he’d rather stop multicultural migration altogether, which to the ordinary person, doesn’t come across as very tolerant. 

Whilst stopping illegal migration appears to most as a sensible policy, with regards to the question of legal migration, the policy of a “freeze” just appears unfeasible, despite 43% of those surveyed in a recent poll stating that immigration has had a net negative impact on society. However whilst there may be a lead for those who think immigration is harming society, we can say for sure that Farage and Reform UK’s campaign hasn’t been focusing on what many see as the areas harmed by immigration. Instead, Farage has taken a broad approach to attacking immigration, centred around a “population explosion”, claiming we are losing our identity, due to 1 in 30 people living in the UK having moved here in the past two years. However, as has been shown, the whole notion of a “British identity” is a misnomer. So, for Nigel Farage to run a campaign on the necessity to cut migration to protect “British culture”, we should be more critical over what these words mean. Surely, if Farage were to truly want to preserve a proclaimed “British culture”, then tolerance should be at its core?

Image: PickPik



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