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Soften the blow with a British No thanks

GOOD manners, is that a British value?

Saying yes, please and no, thank you. The new Better Together branding - not No but No Thanks - certainly seems rather more mannerly than the original flat-out refusal.

How to say no - and no and no again - without sounding so negative has long plagued the Better Together campaign. Better Together is open to parody - surely someone, somewhere noticed the potential swap of Better to Bitter? - and too open to questioning: but why are we better together?

No Thanks, though, that's a ­different story. No, thanks sounds lighter, more accommodating. It says, I've thought about it, weighed it up, but no, thanks.

It suggests you can see some ­benefits to what the other side's saying, you don't think they're ­unreasonable or ill motivated - it's just not for you, thanks.

The question asked by Yes voters of Better Together is: "Why should we stay?" No Thanks positions Better Together as the side there to do the listening, to be persuaded. It punts, quite neatly, the independence ball back into the Yes campaign court.

It's polite in the British way that allows foreigners to queue jump us on holiday, but remains firm.

Speaking of British, Education Secretary Michael Gove, with David Cameron's backing, is still making waves with his announcement that schools in England should instil ­British values in their pupils. He really should go the whole hog and capitalise the V: British Values. It reads like a slogan, a rebranding of the education system's ethos. Of course, if Mr Gove was sticking to form it would be No Foreign Values Thanks.

British Values is the catchword of the day created in the wake of the "Trojan horse" row, sparked by ­allegations of Islamist infiltration into Birmingham schools.

Mr Gove defines British Values as respect for the law, democracy, ­equality and tolerance of different beliefs. He probably means English Values but worries the Welsh will feel left out.

The only link I've so far seen between the British nations is a ­fondness for tea bags that are empty of real tea, but I suppose equality and tolerance are pretty decent ties to bind us all too.

Mr Gove has been having a bad time recently and British Values seems like a sticking plaster designed to distract from more negative headlines.

The decision to rebrand this close to the referendum leaves Better Together open to similar questions about its motivation.

All this sloganeering makes me think of Albert Gifford, the schoolboy who is pursuing big businesses for their lackadaisical attitudes to the English language.

In March the teenager took on Tesco for its grammatically grating "most ­tastiest" orange juice, prompting the company to rebrand that particular line of drink. Now, in between studying for his GCSEs, he's been engaged in an email exchange with BMW over the advertising slogan: "It bites as bad as it barks."

I cannot but admire a man who knows how to conjugate his verbs with class, not to mention a chap with a passion for precision and an insistence on plain speaking. There are ­politicians who could take note.

No Thanks and British Values - they've both got such a nice, snappy ring to them. Both are aimed at ­restoring a sense of unity.

The very act of rebranding, however, suggests you've been doing something wrong. It says you need a second chance - whether that's making your squeezed oranges juicier or attempting to protect schools from extremism.

The problem with rebranding, of course, is that it alters nothing. The package changes but the contents stay the same.

Contextual targeting label: 
Education

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