Have you ever taken the UK citizenship test? If you were born in Britain, then you almost certainly won’t have done – as you don’t need to. You’re British citizenship was in all likelihood conferred on you at around the same time you got your NHS number, and perhaps even before you had a name.
I’ve taken the UK citizenship test, just to see how I’d do. I failed. Quite badly. 17 out of 24 was my best effort. Despite being (theoretically) well educated, having decent general knowledge (love a good pub quiz), being a political obsessive and studying history at school, I failed the UK citizenship test. Despite living all but one year of my life in this special country of ours, I failed.
So Sadiq Khan is right when he says that:
“I’ll be canvassing in my area and there’ll be people who have lived in the same home for three or four or five generations who know bugger all about our country, about our heritage. It frustrates me that you’ve got new citizens who have an obligation to learn about our country but we aren’t doing enough to make sure everyone shares that knowledge.”
The UK citizenship test is tough (at least I hope it is, or I feel even worse for failing it), but those who pass it tend to feel a real sense of achievement, and I hope a sense of belonging too. But it’s a shame that many citizens born and brought up in this country, steeped in its history and informed by its culture and traditions, don’t always have the same level of knowledge that recent immigrants are expected to have. Some Tories have ludicrously suggested that Khan wants to abolish the citizenship test. That’s clearly nonsense, if you read what he’s saying, it’s clearly a call to include all British people, wherever we’re from, in the culture and history of Britain.
One Nation surely demands that we all understand where modern Britain came from, if we’re to truly understand where we’re going – wherever we originally came from. At the moment, it seems that some British people do “know bugger all” about Britain – or at least not enough to pass the UK citizenship. Including – I am ashamed to say – your humble editor.
(Feel free to post your own scores in the comments below – no cheating)