British Traditions Deserve Respect

By Simon Heffer

“We are not a multicultural society. We are a monocultural one tolerant of other cultures, and whose clear identity is understood by the people….if not by their leaders. We are an old country with a strong sense of continuity. And anyone who trifles with such manifestations of our antiquity and stability does so at his peril.”

There are few things more enjoyable than when a Leftie admits, or pretends to admit, he was wrong. We saw it a year or so ago when Trevor Phillips, commissar-in-chief of the Commission for Racial Equality, said that multiculturalism had not been a huge success, and that those from other cultures who came here were better off learning to be British. I think he was sincere. I am less sure about Gordon Brown, who bores on about Britishness almost daily. It is the sort of thing that allows a socialist such as Mr Brown to fake some point of contact with conservative-minded patriots. It is also his way of trying to hide the fact that his own party’s policies have split up the United Kingdom and made his position, as a Scot sitting for a Scottish seat who wants to be Prime Minister mostly of England, somewhat precarious.

Not all of the Left has, however, twigged that multiculturalism is rather last century. Someone of whom I had hoped we had heard the last, the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, made a predictable intervention in this debate from beyond the grave last weekend. He proclaimed that the coronation of our next monarch must be an “interfaith” event. The ceremony must, he added, have “very significant changes”, so that it is “inclusive” of other religions in Britain.

Lord Carey clearly has in mind what Private Eye would term a “Rocky Horror” coronation service. Never mind your archbishops, or even your Christians, your imams, your rabbis, ayatollahs, your assorted holy men and other diverse priests, layers-on-of-hands and speakers-in-tongues: in accordance with the professions of religious belief on the 2001 census forms, I expect to see a few Jedi knights in the sanctuary, while devotees of Ras Tafari smoke ganja at the high altar. And, as one of the realm’s noisiest atheists, I hope for a part in the proceedings, too, that I might feel “included”.

Having long regarded the Church of England as many people regard EastEnders, I have steeled myself not to intrude in its private grief, but to lament the largely self-inflicted decline of this great institution. Though it has, to my great spiritual regret, nothing to offer me personally, I can appreciate not merely the potential it has to succour and strengthen millions of believers, but also its role in our culture, our constitution and our nation. >>MORE


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