The papers: Cameron's 'Magna Carta' and 'daddy leave'

  • 15 June 2014

The debate over "Britishness" and British values, and how to instil them in those who seem alienated from them, takes up much newsprint in Sunday's papers.

The seedbed of the debate can be found in the Mail on Sunday, which carries an article by David Cameron entitled "British values aren't optional, they are vital. That's why I will promote them in every school".

In the article the prime minister writes: "In recent years we have been in danger of sending out a worrying message: that if you don't want to believe in democracy, that's fine; that if equality isn't your bag, don't worry about it; that if you're completely intolerant of others, we will still tolerate you.

Artists impression of King John signing the Magna Carta
King John's signing of the Magna Carta in 1215 is said to be the foundation of constitutional law

"This has not just led to division, it has allowed extremism - of both the violent and non-violent kind - to flourish.

"We need to be more muscular in promoting British values and the institutions that uphold them."

The paper says that although government sources were keen to stress that Mr Cameron's article was not just a response to reports of extremist Muslim activity in Birmingham schools, but was aimed at all members of society, they do "appear to signal a key change in the stance of the government".

In its opinion column, the Mail praises the PM's "wise words" but says he faces a problem because "so much of our bureaucracy, our local authorities, our school system and our media remain defiantly multicultural".

It's a position endorsed by Nick Ferrari, writing in the Sunday Express.

He says "While tolerance and respect for other cultures and faiths... are undoubtedly some of the 'British values' we have heard so much about over the last few days, the idea of being multi-cultural is dangerous, deluded and divisive."

The Sunday Times says Mr Cameron's call for action is his "Magna Carta pledge".

The PM made reference to using the 800th anniversary of the signing of constitutional charter next year as a "centrepiece of the fightback against extremism".

In an opinion piece in the paper, Dominic Lawson quotes Michael Gove who once wrote: "there is something rather unBritish about seeking to define Britishness."

Lawson continues "If it can't be defined, how on earth is it to be taught? A teacher jumping up and down waving a Union Jack, singing Rule Britannia?"

His article argues that "British value" are already being taught in schools in citizenship lessons (which are now compulsory) and - in particular - in English Literature classes.

The Observer has a feature where foreign writers who know Britain well are asked how they'd define British values.

The answers range from China's Xiaolou Guo's "the eccentricities, the tolerance, the freedom" to American David Gordon's "the love we feel for a place" to Australian Thomas Keneally's "a liberality and a sense of fun".

The only negative viewpoint is expressed by Nigerian writer Chika Ungiwe who senses a rise in racial prejudice in today's Britain which had been lauded by her grandmother as a "big, munificent space".

Writing in the paper, Frank Cotterell Boyce ridicules Mr Cameron's call.

"Cameron's values turn out to be 'democracy, freedom and the rule of the law'.

Not to be rude, but those are not values. They are the basic qualifications for not being a failed state. And there's nothing British about them."

He concludes: "The trouble is that you can't teach values. 'Values' are what we call laws or ethics when they become part of the culture. When we start to breathe them.

"You can't Ofsted them into existence."

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'Blitzkrieg'

The rapidly moving events in Iraq are the second major theme explored in Sunday's papers.

The Independent reports that a "citizen's army" - made up largely of Shia Muslim volunteers - has halted the advance of the Sunni Muslim extremist movement ISIS.

The paper says that the US's continuing support for the "beleaguered" Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki is "deeply damaging" to its interests.

Elsewhere in the paper, a journalist living in Mosul reports on the realities of living under ISIS occupation: cut off from the rest of Iraq; fearful of the strictures the militants will impose; beset with rumours and with palpable tensions between ISIS and Mosul's Shia and Turkoman minorities.

The paper also carries a column by former SAS commander Richard Williams who says "[ISIS commander] Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi's ambition is not just to set up a caliphate that attacks the Middle East but that also attacks us. Lee Rigby times 1,000 is what they are trying to do.

"You're not going to solve this with a couple of drone strikes. Let the Foreign Office, the Intelligence services and the International Development department work out what we need to do to make sure the country is safe and do it.

"Whatever we do, don't deploy people from Horseguards Parade to go and be targets in Iraq - it doesn't work."

The Sunday Telegraph also carries a report from Mosul, but it says all the residents it spoke to told it that life there was "better than under Maliki".

"The armed men organised even the municipal services: Rubbish is being cleared; electricity is very fine, we now have it for more than nine hours a day, which is even better than during Saddam's rule," one told the Telegraph.

The Sunday Times says the Iranians have "taken command" of Iraq's crumbling armed forces.

Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani has said he would consider an alliance with the Americans "to fight terrorism".

In a two-page report, the Times says ISIS's advance into central Iraq has been a "blitzkrieg of the beheaders" - referring to the gory videos of summary executions that the group has posted online.

It quotes uncorraborated reports that the militants have executed 1,700 captured Shia soldiers.

The paper also reports on a closer-to-home threat posed by the chaos in Iraq and Syria.

It names various Britons who are fighting in the Middle East with militant groups who threaten to return home and "fly the black flag of jihad over London".

It's a theme developed by former defence secretary Dr Liam Fox in The Sun.

Dr Fox notes one estimate that suggests 80% of Britons going to fight in Syria have joined ISIS.

"We cannot afford to have Islamist extremists coming home with British passports, having waged successful jihad across the Middle East.

"If ISIS wins in Iraq, then it would become an ungoverned space that encourages and trains terrorists even more than Afghanistan before 9/11 - and we all know the cost we had to bear as a consequence.

"It is absolutely essential that we do not allow that to happen," he adds.

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'Daddy leave'

Fatherhood issues are to be found in many of Sunday's newspapers.

The front page of The Sunday Times talks of "Labour's dosh for dads", commenting on a plan to double the length of paid paternity leave should the party win the next election.

The paper says the idea is part of Ed Miliband's attempts to "woo" working parents by promising "more family time".

Other ideas are to give expectant fathers the right to paid time off to attend antenatal appointments.

The cost of the extra "daddy leave" could be met by axing David Cameron's marriage tax allowance, the paper adds.

A dad with a new baby

The Sun says Mr Miliband believes the plan is the best way to strengthen relationships.

Elsewhere, there is good news for dads - expectant or otherwise - in The Observer.

It says the amount of time the average father spends with his children has risen sevenfold in a generation.

The amount of time dads today spend with their kids might only be 35 minutes a day, the paper continues, but this is a serious improvement on the five minutes researchers found in 1974.

Mothers - the University of London researchers found - spend an hour a day with their children.

The amount of time men spend with their children is also the subject of an article in The Independent on Sunday.

The paper reports on the backlash against childcare expert Penelope Leach's view that young children should not be allowed to spend the night with their separated dads.

Ms Leach, a former president of the National Childminding Association says that such sleepovers put adult rights above childrens welfare as there is evidence separation from mothers for under-5s "reduces brain development".

Ian Maxwell of the pressure group Families Need Fathers says Ms Leach's ideas "went against common sense" and "the bond between fathers and children is just as impoortant".

His view was supported by psychologist Dr Linda Nielsen who told the paper: that mother-only parenting models were "outdated" and appealed to people who believed that "females have a maternal instinct ... that better equip them to bond and communicate with infants."

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