Michael Gove's announcement that all schools will have to promote "British values" might have looked on Monday like a useful sticking plaster initiative to avoid yet more "bad day for Gove and May" headlines.

But by Tuesday it seemed to be rapidly coming unstuck as it simply pitched the debate between senior ministers over some Birmingham schools on to yet another fault line at the top of the Conservative party – how to define Britishness. One commentator unearthed a Gove quote from 2007. Attacking Gordon Brown's interest in the issue, he declared: "There is something rather unBritish about seeking to define Britishness."

Indeed, much recent Conservative thinking about promoting a stronger British identity to tackle Islamist extremism was defined by opposition to what Conservatives saw as New Labour's "multiculturalism" and Brown's attempt to promote a national identity to improve social cohesion.

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