The real British values are not what David Cameron thinks they are

While there is much to applaud in David Cameron’s stand on “British” values, (click here) I fear he is a little out of touch with reality. In 2012, the Barrett Values Centre with the support and guidance of the UK Office of National Statistics mapped the values of a statistically valid sample of the UK population. The results can be found in this report (click here), and are presented in summary below.

Personal Values

The citizens of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales share seven personal values in common—caring, family, honesty, humour/fun, friendship, fairness and compassion. Our personal values show that :

  • Meaningful close relationships with others are important to us and are central to the decisions we make.
  • Kindness, empathy and consideration are crucial to our interactions with others.
  • We seek to ensure that people are treated justly and fairly.
  • We have a fun-loving approach to life and enjoy sharing good times.
  • We appreciate freedom and autonomy and prefer not to be reliant on others.

Community Life

As far as community life is concerned, the people of the UK are relatively content. The citizens of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have five positive values in common in their community life—quality of life, family, buy local, helpfulness and friendship.

People from all four nations identified four common issues at the community level—uncertainty about the future, drugs/alcohol abuse, crime/violence and wasted resources. They also identified four common priorities: they want to see more focus on employment opportunities, caring for the elderly, caring for the disadvantaged and economic development.

National Life

Compared to their community life, citizens of the UK have a very different perspective on the values they see in the nation. Citizens of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales share six values in common at the national level, all potentially limiting to progress: bureaucracy, crime/violence, uncertainty about the future, corruption and blame, as well as being concerned about drugs/alcohol abuse. Other top scoring potentially limiting values include: media influence, apathy, poverty, discrimination, elitism and short-term focus.

People from all four nations identified three common issues—bureaucracy, crime/violence and wasted resources. They also identified three common priorities: they want to see more focus on caring for the elderly, affordable housing and caring for the disadvantaged. Caring for the elderly and caring for the disadvantaged are top priorities shared at both the community and national level. In addition, the people of the UK want to live in a nation which shows more accountability and less focus on blame.

Whilst I agree with David Cameron on teaching values in schools, If he wants to make a real impact  he should focus on our citizen’s desired culture values shown in the following table, and eliminate the limiting values that are showing up in our current culture, particularly the values of bureaucracy, corruption, blame and wasted resources.

What people are asking for is more focus on the accountability, more focus on caring for the elderly, and more focus caring for the disadvantaged.

For more information on this study click here. In the following table the percentages in parenthesis represent the proportion of people picking that value as one of their top ten.

Personal Values of Citizens
in the UK
Citizen’s Perception of the Current Culture in the UK Citizen’s Desired
Culture for the UK
Caring (49%) Bureaucracy (51%) Caring for the elderly (43%)
Family (46%) Crime/violence (44%) Accountability (38%)
Honesty (40%) Uncertainty about the future (43%) Affordable housing (37%)
Humour/fun (39%) Corruption (39%) Caring for the disadvantaged (36%)
Friendship (30%) Blame (38%) Employment opportunities (30%)
Fairness (27%) Wasted resources (37%) Dependable public services (30%)
Compassion (26%) Media influence (32%) Concern for future generations (29%)
Independence (25%) Conflict/aggression (31%) Effective health care (26%)
Respect (24%) Drugs/alcohol (30%) Honesty (26%)
Trust (24%) Apathy (30%) Governmental effectiveness (26%)

2 responses

  1. A succinct and powerful reply, Richard. BVC and the UK Values Alliance are progressing this on their social media channels. Let’s hope David Cameron and his government pay some attention to the findings this time.

    Warm wishes
    Maureen Watson

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