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Thursday, March 13, 2008 

Citizenship: Gordon Brown he say yes!!!

And so, less controversially then, to the question of Britishness. Lord Goldsmith produced the usual nuanced, in-depth 138 page report, but all anyone's going to remember about it is that he proposes teenagers in a "coming of age ceremony" pledging allegiance to either the Queen or to the country.

This is of course a fantastic idea for a couple of reasons. Firstly, because the kids that actually turn up to it and go through with it without having their fingers crossed behind their backs or reciting the Sex Pistols instead of the actual pledge can be identified by a loony left teacher for a re-education session, but also secondly because it would make a big difference to that other great coming of age ceremony; getting drunk, falling into the gutter and making other statements of patriotism about the wonderful monarchy that this country has so much to be thankful for. All right, I might have stretched the truth a bit with that last one.

To be fair to Goldsmith, although he doesn't really deserve it considering his record while attorney general, he does recognise that this statement of allegiance might well be "problematic" in both Scotland and Northern Ireland, where half of the population is about as likely to pledge allegiance to the Queen as Allison Pearson is to say a kind word about someone other than her mirror image who's lost a child.

That, after all, is the problem with this whole concept of Britishness. There are two reasons why this has emerged in the first place: the belief that multiculturalism, a "policy" that has never in reality been a policy and that has was adopted by all political parties has failed as a result of the 7/7 attacks and the plots since then, not to mention the strains that immigration has put on the notion of identity; and rather more pertinently to the huge number of reviews about citizenship and "rights and responsibilities", Gordon Brown's apparent inadequacy concerning him being Scottish. Blair was never much that interested in Britishness, amazing as it seems now, and despite him declaring that the "rules of the game" had changed after 7/7. No, this is certainly all Brown's doing, triggered by the murmuring about the English being ruled by Scots while Scotland has its own parliament. That this doesn't seem to make a scrap of difference to those who aren't horribly anally retentive, as important as the "West Lothian" question is, doesn't seem to matter that much when Brown's own qualms have to be soothed.

We are all British now then. Or rather, we certainly aren't, to go by the very polling which Goldsmith commissioned for his report. This more than anything is the report's main failing; nothing that it actually prescribes, from the allegiance coming of age ceremony to giving students a rebate on their tuition fees if they volunteer, or even designating a national British holiday will do anything to change that. You can't be kicked, harried or forced into belonging, and like when, shock horror, teachers objected to teaching patriotism, the real issue is not that they didn't think they could do so without giving both sides of the debate, but rather that you can't enforce belonging the same as you can't make someone patriotic. You have to feel it to begin with, and only a certain number do. True, this seems to be more prevalent in some societies and cultures than others, but as so many others have pointed out, the one thing that is most un-British of all is to impose something by diktat. Failing that, you do it to the forgotten or undesirables in society first; the foreigners and other scum essentially. Hence why they're getting the ID cards first and already have to swear allegiance to her Maj to gain citizenship, with the students, the same ones that will have just pledged allegiance to Brenda, up next for a fast track onto the database state. It might not make sense to begin with, but New Labour has this funny knack of making things just so.

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Just a few points of view,

Would this not be considered evidence of Brown own insecurities, there is also the other point that we are deemed to owe allegiance to the state in any event, if we are born here we owe allegiance and the states owes protection.

This could also be tied in with Browns ideas about a new British Bill of Rights, god forbid.

The British Constitution has been under attack for some time so it seems a bit strange to see all this flag waving stuff coming from this administration, it is almost as if they realise that their devolution project has backfired instead of quietening down calls for Scottish independence it seems to have both fuelled it and given it a stronger voice within Scotland. Of course it could also have something to do with the fact that is it the Scots and the Welsh that have kept new Labour in power and the more independence that is granted to those regions the harder it will be to maintain their power base.

Of course there is another angle MPs and government ministers do have to swear an oath before they take up their posts. (which is why some of the NI MPs have refused to take their seats)

We have seen how much store can be set by those oaths of allegiance, without wanting to open an EU debate there is a very strange understanding of oaths when it comes to the EU our own ministers are according to even Tony Blair committing treason. (The dilemma of a British Prime Minister over Europe is acute to the point of the ridiculous. Basically you have a choice: co-operate in Europe and you betray Britain; be unreasonable in Europe, be praised back home, and be utterly without influence in Europe. It’s sort of: isolation or treason.)

Then we send a commissioner to the EU - this time it is Peter Mandleson – he was a privy councillor, to take that position he did have to take the oath to uphold the British state above all etc, then he goes of to Brussels and before he can become a commissioner he has to swear allegiance to the EU above all, after his sojourn in the EU commission he will be elevated to the House of Lord where he will have to take another oath of allegiance to the British state. If our leaders treat oaths of allegiance as mere meaningless passports to a job I do not see that they should be the ones demanding that we take an unnecessary and meaningless oath. At least the NI MPs are not hypocrites.

Quite. Part of this is most certainly Brown's own insecurities. As you say on the NI MPs not taking their seats, I think the republican MPs of all stripes tend to cross their fingers behind their backs when they have take the oath, but the point is that we should never have to resort to doing that ourselves.

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