Monday, September 06, 2010

Citizenship criteria and starting off on the right foot

Although I've lived in the UK for a long time, I'm not a citizen. I've never quite taken the plunge. I've been meaning to, but just never got around to it. The previous Labour government had made it harder to become a citizen - introducing a test on life in the UK and a citizenship ceremony. In essence that can only be a good thing. Citizenship is a big deal and should be treated as such. There should be a moment of celebration where the mutual duties and obligations of state and citizen are marked publicly, rather than just a letter in the post.

And they were about to make it harder still, introducing a kind of 'good citizen' requirement - a probationary period of volunteering. I was against this. Not so much in theory - it's a good thing. And not so much because of personal impact, as I've been serving as a School Governor for almost four years (for American readers, it's kinda like a school board, but without any real power and every school has one) and I've volunteered for a political party which also counts. But I was iffy about it because of the bureaucratic nature of it. How would you prove that you'd done work? Would there be spot checks to make sure there wasn't some kind of weird black market in the volunteering certificates? But these requirements may be scrapped by the new Coalition government (Telegraph)

And apparently there's going to be a shakeup in the quiz, too. Good. Although the Life in the UK was as a big a phone book in a medium sized city and packed full of Battle of Britain and parliamentary procedure and Magna Carta and so forth, the quiz emphasis was on quirky etiquette - What does one do if one spills someone's pint on them in the pub? Offer to duke it out the car park or buy them a new drink? - and navigating the benefits system. Really. Navigating the benefits system. Now, it's good to know that sort of thing I guess, but that's a bit like setting down rules for your matrimonial partner to be on just how much cheating you'll tolerate before you call it a day. I'd like to think that at the beginning of a relationship, there's a slightly rosier view of the role of the productive citizen rather than assuming that they'll be taking more than they'll be contributing.

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