Monday, August 03, 2009

...I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty...

The photo is of my Facebook “Friend” Tareq Chowdbury (3rd left) at his British Citizenship ceremony last month. Tareq had to memorise this oath of Allegiance to the Queen

“I, Tareq Chowdhury, do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that on becoming a British Citizen, I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, her Heirs and Successors, according to law. I will give my loyalty to the United Kingdom and respect its rights and freedoms. I will observe its laws faithfully and fulfill my duties and obligations as a British citizen”

He also had to memorise and sing the national anthem and be tested on facts about Britain.

At last year’s UNISON conference I entered a prize draw competition and took the written British citizenship test which I failed miserably. I doubt that unprompted I know all the words of even the first verse of the national anthem.

Today there has been an announcement that Citizenship will be made even more difficult. Being an active trade union steward will however, apparently make it quicker.

I will admit to being unsure whether these tests and ceremonies are a good thing or not? Are such public announcements and flag waving essentially “un-British”? I did recently meet someone who was very proud to become a British citizen but had put it off for years since he was a committed republican and could not bear to take an oath of allegiance to a heredity monarch. He did eventually but it was I assume a meaningless occasion to him.

Tareq and his friends who commented on it did not feel this way and everyone was genuinely warm and obviously pleased with the ceremony. I am reminded of those surveys that show that immigrants often feel more British and patriotic than the average Brit. It is also tragically ironic that I think it was in the last Council election in Barking and Dagenham that research found that up to 7% of the BNP vote came from members of the local BME community who thought from the name that they were voting for a “British” patriotic Party rather than a bunch of Nazi goons.

I think on balance such ceremonies are a “good thing” and that a public declaration of your loyalty to your state is important for the individual involved and the wider community. Who knows, despite being very proud of being Welsh/Scots should I face facts and recognise that I have now spent most of my life in England. Should I start calling myself English? (God forbid)

Tareq is a member of Newham Labour Party and a local solicitor. I actually met him properly for the first time last week at the Labour Party headquarters in Victoria (in somewhat unusual circumstances). Typically neither of us “Facebook Friends” recognised each other. According to his latest Facebook posting he is currently on holiday in Spain. Now how British is that!

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