Sajid Javid has said that he is warm to the idea that holders of public office (however that is defined: with 40% or so of the economy under direct state control, and 100% being regulated) should swear their allegiance to British Values before they are allowed to take up their position. This comes around every few years. And every few years people laugh at it, poke holes in the reasoning and then it goes away again.
Unless an oath of allegiance is considered a binding contract that one could be held to have breached, then it seems fairly pointless. Will there be a new criminal offence of saying you tolerate the views of others when you don't really? The people who Mr Javid presumably wants to bar from having important responsibilities in public life are, one presumes, exactly the people who would have no problem making the required oath whether or not they agreed with a single bit of it. It would be seen simply as part of the "game".
I have always seen oaths taken elsewhere as a sign of institutional weakness - of tin-pottery. The US President has to swear that he or she will uphold the Constitution. Cannot the Constitution uphold itself if the President tries to drive a coach and horses through it? How confident were the founding fathers that it would all stay upright? Not very, perhaps.
I once had to sign a UK government form (it was pink, and asked all sorts of silly questions) with a declaration at the bottom that I would uphold the values of Parliamentary Democracy. As I was signing I wondered whether there weren't perfectly defensible viewpoints which might be contrary to that, which sensible people could hold without being terrorists. What happens if Parliament goes against a democratic choice, what do oath-takers do then? Will Mr Javid be making people swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen? That could exclude an awful lot of Liberal Democrats. Maybe that is the point.
And we haven't even got onto the question of what these British Values might be. Mr Javid says that he does not want to see a "government-approved, one-size-fits-all identity" where everyone "drinks tea, watches cricket and bobs up and down at the Last Night of the Proms". Which is lucky in a country where football is obviously the national sport.
One of the key British values which has stood the test of time is that of eccentricity and the tolerance for the eccentricity of others. Try incorporating that into an oath, Mr Javid.
"I, Blue Eyes, do swear and attest that I will uphold the British Values of fair play, hard work and an eye-wateringly expensive welfare state, of freedom of speech unless it offends anyone, and the right to be a little bit weird but not too weird. I will uphold the right of everyone to hold at least one petty grudge, to get apostrophes wrong every single bloody time, and to have no more than three topics which should not be discussed in front of them down the pub. So help me Beckham."