Celebrate British Traditions - Worcester News

I hope your Christmas was a good one. Inevitably I'm having to write this column before my family descends on our Worcester home for the festivities, so I can't report on mine.
We all like a pretty traditional Christmas - tree, turkey, pantomime (I went to two this year), Queen's message and church (well, Cathedral, where I hope the televised services ran to time!).

These traditions are part of an important political debate about what it means to be British in a society of many faiths and cultures. I am clear that living in a diverse society does not mean abandoning or playing down our customs. It is not intolerant or insensitive to celebrate Christmas. People of other faiths will be concerned, not pleased, if Christians do not have the confidence to celebrate their own beliefs. It's not surprising that Muslims, for example, often prefer to send their children to Church of England schools - they are pleased to see faith respected and honoured.

Similarly, people of other nationalities will welcome a confident assertion by the British people of their values and culture. So I'm right behind Gordon Brown on one issue - we should fly the national flag from public buildings, although, as an Englishman and a unionist, I think the Cross of St George can be flown every bit as proudly as the Union Flag.

The growth of minority communities in Worcestershire has been significant in recent years - Portuguese, Polish and Iraqi newcomers have joined our longer established Asian and Italian communities. They have brought much needed workers to our fields, factories, offices and shops - and a fascinating growth in the distinctive foods of their own cultures! We make these people more secure, not less, by showing the quiet confidence we have in our beliefs and in our society.

If we do not uphold our traditions in a responsible way, the noisy extremists will assert those same traditions in a menacing way. If we do not stand up for our national interests in international organisations like the European Union, the newcomers to our shores will wonder what it is we actually believe in.

I don't really do New Year resolutions, but I do pledge to do my bit to encourage responsible pride in our country - and yes, that includes fighting for a referendum on the wretched constitutional treaty. I'm English and British and proud of both.

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