The standard politicians' answer is sanctimonious and hypocritical talk of toleration and fair play - presumably to distinguish us from the bigoted Dutch and cheating Belgians.
We can, though, tackle this question another way. A person's values consist not in what they say but in what they do. Actions speak louder than words. As that book which Gove sent to schools said:
Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. (Matthew 7:16-17)
Fruits can be measured. To discover British values, we should therefore look at how our behaviour differs from that of other countries.
In many ways, it doesn't. For example, school results, openness to migration and life satisfaction aren't much different from other developed countries. One British value, then, is mediocrity. Here are some other values:
- Drunkenness. Brits consume an average of 10 litres of alcohol per year, compared to an OECD average of 9.1.
- Obesity. A higher proportion of Brits are porkers than most other nations.
- Criminality.The British are more likely (pdf) to rob, rape and assault people than are citizens of most other developed nations - though we're less inclined to commit murder.
It's not all bad, though. Brits are also relatively environmentally friendly. UK CO2 emissions per unit of GDP are one-third below those of the OECD average, although the latter is inflated by the US's high pollution. And we are also more generous to poorer nations; our overseas aid is a larger share of GDP than most other nations - though whether all Tories share this value is unclear.
There's one other big difference between us and many others - our acceptance of inequality. The top 1% get 12.9% of gross income in the UK. Though less than the US (19.3%), this is more than France, Sweden, Germany or Switzerland. Whether this value is to be applauded or not is debateable.
On balance, the empirical evidence suggests "British values" are not to be encouraged. But, then the facts are irrelevant, aren't they?