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11 March, 2008

Run it up the flagp... no, don't bother

Amongst other, frankly half-baked, ideas in a review of British citizenship, an ex-attorney general has proposed that school-leavers be encouraged to swear an oath of allegiance to Queen and country.
This is misconceived in several respects.

  • Most profoundly, it just wouldn't be British. One of the fundamental, and best, aspects of the (mythical?) 'national character' is a quiet pride, free of demonstrative patriotism or reverence for symbols. As I've discussed before, the national flag isn't flown routinely or considered in anything like the same way as US citizens regard their flag. We don't have a 'national day' (though that's in Goldsmith's report, too).
  • Secondly, the 'national character' is something of an anachronism: the UK isn't as united as it once was, and there are active campaigns to dissolve it outright. If people feel overt allegiance to anything (and see the previous point), it's possibly more likely to be to Wales, Scotland, England or another of the UK's constituent parts. For many, the UK, governed from Westminster, is a little too analogous to 'England'. Of course, that means the English are quite comfortable with the concept of 'Britishness', but not non-English Brits like me.
  • The third reason is an irrelevance, or rather, regards an irrelevance: I don't know of anyone who'd be inclined to offer the remotest allegiance to the monarch. That's not republicanism; just indifference.

I'm me, an individual, loyal to myself, friends and family. Inasmuch as I consider nationality at all, I'm British, then Welsh, then European (depending on my mood, sometimes that order of priority is Specifically-Not-English then British, etc.). I don't regard myself as a citizen, with any loyalty to the state.

[Update 18/03/07: Having just returned to the country of pointlessly different money and driving habits (i.e. driving on the left) after a visit to Paris, I'm inclined to modify that order: individual, then European, then British, then Welsh, and still Specifically-Not-English. For passport purposes, European would be my preference.]

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