‘A Test of Britishness’
This was written c. 2007/2008 in response to the overweening and vulgar nationalism which was then striking a popular vein; and which saw – yet again – the Labour and Conservative parties being approbative to the insular chauvinism pressed upon them by the right-wing media. I recall reading one message on a tabloid blog in which the poster noted that two Polish children at the primary school she worked in were seriously ill, and were – in her purview – costing the country an ’unnecessary’ amount. While the implications of such views are undoubtedly odious, they were hardly unique. The Chief Executive of the British Borders and Immigration Agency, Lin Homer, was quoted in The Guardian discussing a Ghanaian woman who was deported while undergoing treatment for malignant cancer of the bone marrow because she had overstayed her visa:
“Deporting those undergoing medical treatment does not amount to degrading or inhuman treatment, even if the patient suffers a relapse, or even fatal consequences. I think it is very difficult to see the circumstances in which this case stands out” .
I disagree, suffice to say. The woman in question died shortly after she was removed from our country.
Anyway, the following was an early effort of mine at dramatic irony. The ‘Test of Britishness’ proposed in various quarters has a clear irony which eludes most proponents of such measures. I had been reading a number of Christopher Marlowe’s plays at the time. This piece is maybe more high-minded than Marlowe would approve of; but I think he would have held the various crude, ambitious personalities alluded to herein in disdain – though he may have quite fancied Gordon Brown. Accents are lovely.
Some of the quotes are valid; most are invention.
‘A Test of Britishness’
The Great British government of Great Britain has recently unveiled its new ‘Motto for Great Britain’. In a local exclusive, this is printed in full here for the very first time:
“He who understands integrates; she who does not understand, be considered null”.
Those are the words to be placed on every public building across the land. In an official statement, Britain’s Home Secretary has today made the meaning clear to all:
“We must ensure that newcomers to our country fully understand and abide by our British values. British law is fundamentally founded on a foundational fundament of British principles. These beliefs embrace in their vision a transcendence of fallacious complementarity, and afford no occasion for larceny by any exposure to terroristic subterfuge”.
It is not known at present whether the explanation will feature as a sub-point.
In fact, as part of the overall proposed proposal, the Government has created a new pledge which will surely prove to be the centrepiece of citizenship in our fair country.
The British Pledge will be based on the British national anthem – beloved by all British people equally – in an attempt to foster a sense of shared and equal belonging, and a greater sense of civic responsibility. In a national exclusive, I can today reveal an extract from the new pledge in its entirety:
“God save our gracious Queen,
Long live our noble Queen,
God save the Queen!
Send her victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us;
God save the Queen!
O Lord our God arise,
Scatter her enemies
And make them fall;
Confound their politics,
Frustrate their knavish tricks,
On Thee our hopes we fix,
God save us all!
Lord grant that Marshal Wade
May by thy mighty aid
May he sedition hush,
And like a torrent rush,
Rebellious Scots to crush.
God save the Queen!”
All members of our country may rejoice in such sentiments.
This raises an obvious set of questions, however. Britishness: who does? Wherefore? And Why? Let us turn to figures of true significance for clear examples of what it means to be truly British.
In a widely heralded speech given to the Conservative party conference in Blackpool, the Conservative leader David Cameron boldly attacked the Labour government’s policy of multiculturalism. In full hearing of the fittingly representative audience assembled before him, Cameron asserted that “Britain has long-been a country with a distinct culture; but now our government’s policy of making space for difference is dividing our society into a mass of individuals, all thinking, living and behaving differently. Enough is enough” .
The minister went on:
“Britain has always had its distinct religious customs: Roman Catholics, Methodists, Calvinists, Baptists, Anabaptists, Congregationalists, Lutherans, Pentecostalists, Salvationists, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Quakers, Orthodox Jews, Reform Jews, Liberal Jews, Hassidic Jews, Ashkenazim, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Atheists, Laodicians, Agnostics, and even people who are just plain spiritual. But now we are seeing the introduction of Muslims. Enough is enough”.
The message could not have been clearer:
“We have simply too many people from too many disparate cultures coming to Britain and undermining our singularly British way of life and our uniquely British way of thinking Britishly. Since time immemorial, Britain has been composed of the heterosexual, the bisexual, and the homosexual; heterosocial groups and homosocial ones; lawyers, teachers, police officers, doctors, nurses, radiologists, meteorologists, astronomers, barristers, cartographers, geologists, milkmen, janitors, waiters and waitresses, office workers, accountants, recruitment consultants, actors, singers, musicians: violinists, guitarists, tambourinists, tromboners and more; artists who work in a multiplicity of mediums, both professional and amateur; northerners, southerners; east and westerners; political parties: Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Greens, Socialists, UKippers; music fan-bases split between rock, pop, classical, jazz and more; fans of crime-fiction, fans of poetry, fans of documentaries; vegetarians, vegans; sundry social groupings such as yuppies, slackers, chavs, moshers, goths, teddy boys, queebos, flids and frods, not to mention pogs. Even the Welsh. And now we have to contend with people who speak English only as a second language. Enough is enough”.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was quick to respond to his opposite number’s address:
“In the future, the aspiring citizen should know and subscribe to a clear statement of British values. Newcomers to Britain must accept British principles and British mores. Our way of thinking; our way of life; our very manner of being British. They must adopt British attitudes towards the elderly, towards children and neighbours, and the steadfast British loyalty to the homeless, the poor and the workless. A British regard for the unfortunate, the marginalised and the distressed, is never far from the kindly British heart. They must value and pay taxes in the same spirit as any honest Briton.
They must assume traditional British values that have stood the test of time, and have remained unchanged for centuries. The British value of peaceful diplomacy at all costs: no eager rush to war; no swift recourse to violence. The British attitude towards women: voting rights; sexual mores; and criminal justice. The British regard for single mothers who work – abandoning their children selfishly in pursuit of material gain; and our attitudes towards single mothers who don’t work, and who believe that a lifetime on benefits at the expense of the honest British taxpayer is all that they should hope for. Britain – a country where women have never had to struggle for equality, respect or political rights. A political system wherein no person has ever been disenfranchised or persecuted for objecting to a political, economic, or military decision”.
The Prime Minister continued:
“Immigrants must adapt to the British love of the establishment and the British public’s desire to fall into line behind it. The British admiration of politicians, and the traditional British obedience to authority. Willing to be led, and to follow convenient untruths. The British love of the perfunctory, the bureaucratic, and the trite; the bland, the banal and the plain. The British distaste for the eccentric, the individual and the free-thinking; for personal liberty, dignity and courtesy. They must appreciate our national heritage in which we all share and participate as equals: Parliament, the Monarchy, Marlborough Cricket Club, the Church , Oxbridge, Public schools, and the High Court. They must appreciate that British law is founded on British Values; and that Britain is ultimately, undeniably, and incontestably British”.
The leader of the popular British National Party was equally swift to comment on Brown’s response, however: “it is nothing but a case of jumping on our bandwagon and stealing our ideas” he said. “We got there first with our ‘British jobs for British people; British women for British men’ policy. They are pandering to our supporters. They are literally – literally – copying everything that we have said. This is a clear example of the undemocratic British government refusing to listen to us and completely ignoring the honest British people we represent. Enough is enough” .
What constitutes a British person is obvious, therefore; but what is a British job? Well, speaking astutely on the theme of ‘British jobs for British People’ the Prime Minister outlined the specific qualities of ‘the British job’:
“The British job is precisely 40 hours a week long, or fewer; more if overtime is required. It is situated in an office, or elsewhere, depending upon the task in hand. It is paid or unpaid work; colleagues may or may not feature. It is situated in Britain, or abroad if travel is necessary. It may or may not include several days’ paid or unpaid leave. The employee is always British, unless of a differing nationality. The British wage for the British employee is uniform regardless of place, locale, gender, rank or station. A British hosier earns as much as a British barrister; or less, depending on the salary the British employer provides, and any attendant benefits. The British workplace is of British dimensions: never less than truly British, it is so many metres, or yards, by so many metres, or yards. Either one, or several, floors. A British choice. The unquestionably tender concern of the British workplace for its employees’ children is therein always apparent. Clear, concise, methodical and precise standards of communication between British employer and British employees, co-workers and colleagues is a given”.
The Prime Minister then gave examples of such British jobs for such British people:
“Trusty British fruit-mongers with their sturdy British wares: bananas, pineapples, oranges and pears. Apricots, grapes, figs and dates. It’s all a question of unquestionable British taste. British sales assistants in British goods stores: Sony, Toshiba, Microsoft and more – only a few have need to be sounded – upon these an honourable British living is founded. British vintners with their shelves laden with array upon dazzling array of British wines. Each grape a British one; British jobs from British vines. British supermarkets – British jobs from British fare. And British supermarket customers: conscientious, patient, courteous and self-aware. British tea-houses and cafés – British jobs created by simple British endeavour: British merchants of British Tea, British coffee and British sugar” .
The Prime Minister subsequently moved on to his much vaunted discussion of ‘British values’ with regard to British jobs:
“The British love of hard work, our sheer willingness to go the extra mile – and then some – for even the most trifling matters. Never complaining; never grumbling. The solid British attitude to adversity: if something is difficult or expensive there is no question of the Briton giving up, we merely get on with the task in hand; we get on with the British job. British hardiness and meekness: we put up with much and complain about little. British trains run like British clockwork: a testament to British mechanical and social engineering. The honest British cab-driver: upright, forthright and erudite – epitomising the British character. The honourable British plumber: arriving on the day and at the time as stated; charging never more than estimated; a solid British work ethic, fast efficient and reliable. Never treating a client discourteously, or exploiting the gullible. The conscientious and widely admired British student’s studious British diligence. Smartly presented and neatly attired: a testament to British exertion and British intelligence. The beloved British community Doctor, working on behalf of the noble British unhealthy. Labouring at minimum wage: never asking to become wealthy”.
However, critics have pointed out that it marks a strategic about-turn for Brown, in which the Prime Minister has reversed his earlier decision to launch the ‘British People for British Jobs’ policy. Increasingly British people had previously been required to fill the many surplus jobs created by the introduction of foreign entrepreneurs and employers to Britain. It is to this end that the British government has announced its bold new initiative, entitled ‘Work Will Make You Free’ – envisioning “a new deal for those migrants seeking to migrate to Britain”.
The programme will allow the Home Secretary to oversee an immigration points-tally delineated by skill, age and income. Applicants will be divided into categories establishing who is fit and who is unfit for labour. Those deemed unfit will be evacuated and subsequently resettled in their home countries.
Putting one of my many British skills to good use, I have used computers to draw up a table clarifying the 5 tier categorisation of immigrants and their British equivalents:
1. Highly skilled
Migrant: Engineer with PhD
British Equivalent: Police Officer
2. Skilled with job offer
British Equivalent: Call-Centre Employee
3. Moderately skilled with job-offer
Migrant: PhD Candidate
British Equivalent: Clumsy, but pleasant, adolescent Sales Assistant
5. Unskilled, no job offer
British Equivalent: British Citizen
When questioned as to why there was a need for such a table, the government’s spokesman replied “I think that people want to know that only those who we need to come to Britain should be allowed to come” .
This is quite correct: Britishness is simply not compatible with criticism of established authority. We all agree on that. This much is clear. In fact, this bold sentiment could not have come at a more critical juncture in Britain’s history. A recent poll has revealed wide-spread fears that ‘more and more immigrants are coming to Britain from abroad’. In fact, it can be safely said that the vast majority of British people now believe that most – if not all – foreigners are coming to the UK from foreign countries.
For the word on the street, I spoke to a local cab-driver, who asked to remain anonymous.
“The foreigners that come here from overseas haven’t come from nowhere, you know. There’s clearly too many of them coming to Britain from abroad – putting a strain on health, education and other things besides”.
Please could you give us a precise figure?.
“Literally hundreds of thousands”.
That’s the gross approximate; could you give us the net figure when emigration from the UK is taken into account?
“It’s still too high”.
By what rationale, and on what basis?
“That’s not important”.
Facts aren’t important?
“Well, no. Evidence can’t prove what I believe. Besides, anyone knows you can use facts to prove anything that’s even remotely true”.
“It’s the cultural differences that are important. That’s what’s less tangible. The cultural effects on our British way of life”.
“That’s not important”.
But you could describe British culture?
“Well…it’ a state of mind; an attitude; a general outlook on life”.
“That’s not important”.
Another passer-by overheard our conversation, and made their thoughts plain:
“I – personally – I’ve spoken to immigrants who did not speak English, and they quite literally did not know what I was talking about”.
But what is Britain to do about such matters? A tough new British Citizenship test is clearly vital if we are to progress here: a rigorous examination of potential Britishness is required.
The British Citizenship Test
In light of this quandary, I – as a British national – have taken the initiative in formulating a true test of Britishness. It is a test centred on evaluating an individual’s grasp of the values and acheivements which have upheld British freedoms for hundreds of years – be they the enfranchisement of women in 1918; or the admission of homosexuals into the military in 1999. It is a test of a person’s understanding of such vital matters. It is a test of their potential worth to Britain. Those who fail the test will be deported. Those who cannot answer honest British questions about Britishness are not fit to reside in Great Britain, the land of the free and the fair.
While this may sound harsh at first, let us be clear: Britain has long been a tolerant country. Unlike most places in the world, women, homosexuals and foreigners have never been subject to ill-treatment here – either physically, legally, politically or socially; and it is high time that migrants understood this or faced the consequences. We simply cannot afford to tolerate intolerance; not if we are to remain a tolerant country, at least.
Citizenship Candidates will be required to have a rudimentary, elementary and basic grasp of Great Britain’s language – English. They will be assessed on the basis of diction, syntax, written pronunciation and – of course – grammaticality.
Today I am proud to reveal the following samples of the test’s questions in their entirety. English is the true language of Wales, Scotland and England; therefore these questions have been written in proper British.
The British Language
Translate the following well known colloquial phrase into correct British:
“Tits or GTFO”.
(Worth 1 point).
Given that, on the one hand, the British language has the advantage of manifesting symbolic necessity purely – to the extent that we may even believe its conception to be arbitrary – but on the other, it features an almost providential denomination which displaces any inter-subjective repetition, would it be more appropriate to emphasise the similarities or dissimilarities between the logical impasses, the eristic enigmas, and the idiosyncratic mimesis of the following two sentences? When answering, consider how verisimilitude may only appear to depend on a guarantee of exactitude; how the communication of one subject with another will nonetheless remain irreducibly mediated by an ineffable relation; and how the double and even triple subjective may filter through purely non-verbal communication.
“As a linguistic phenomenon, the British word is a unit of signification without any meaning in itself. It is never the image of an event, but a term which takes on meaning only through its differential opposition to other traces”.
“The British word is indifferent to meanings, concerned more with a latent organisation of the manifest than a latent meaning beneath it”.
(Worth 1 point) .
These are multi-choice questions: circle one British letter for each British question.
Which two of the following aphorisms would make the most appropriate dictum for Britain and the British way of life? Circle one British letter.
a) “Never look a gift horse in the mouth”; “You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs”.
b) “If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well”; “Home is where the heart is”.
c) “It’s not my problem so why should I care?”; “Why should I pay for the National Health Service? I’m not sick!”.
A person who is not employed is:
b) A parasite.
c) Subject to immediate deportation.
As a Citizen on Probation I can expect from True British Citizens:
a) Good-humour, manners, and decency.
b) Encouragement, assistance, and protection.
c) Churlishness, ‘satirical’ jokes, and irritating stares.
Which 3 of the following expressions should be associated with Great Britain?
a) Honesty, fair-play, decency.
b) Corruption, persistent yet essentially vacuous elitism, lowest common denominator.
c) Parliament, Oxbridge, Media coverage.
Which 3 of the following figures best characterise Great Britain?
a) Edmund Dean Morel, William Shakespeare, Sylvia Pankhurst.
b) Ian Wright, Daley Thompson, Kelly Holmes.
c) Geoffrey Archer, Jonathan Aitkin, Conrad Black.
d) Cliff Richard, Richard Littlejohn, Richard Desmond.
e) Fred West, Tony Blair, Rose West.
Complete this sentence regarding a common British value: “Civic responsibility funded by high taxation and a redistribution of wealth to generate more equal social, educational, and economic opportunities for the benefit of Britain’s society as a whole is ……….….. by the British”.
(Worth 1 point).
When did Britain win the First World War? (Worth 1 point).
When did Britain win the Second World War? (Worth 1 point).
When did Britain win the Battle of Bannockburn? (Worth 1 point).
When did Britain win the world cup? (Worth 1 point).
What is the precise date that Britain became a secular country? (Worth 1 point).
Describe the influence of Hegelian dialectics on the British clericalism of the 1930’s in ten words or less (worth 10 points or less).
How many colours are there on the British flag? (Worth 1 point).
Which does the red signify: valour or honesty? (Worth 1 point).
Which does the white signify: fair-play or pluck? (Worth 1 point).
Which does the blue signify: parochial ideals or the global ubiquity of values rooted in British standards? (Worth 1 point).
The word ‘honorificabilitudeinitatibus’ appears in the script of popular British medieval screen-writer William Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour Lost (Act 5; Scene 1).
– Summarise its meaning in ten words or less (worth 1 point).
– What Latin word is the above a permutation of, and when did it first appear in the Latin Charter? (Worth 2 points).
Which is more British – cricket or football?
What does a British person think about God?
Appropriate British attitudes towards the French.
Complete the following sentence: ‘The secret of French cooking is…’
(Worth two points)
Appropriate British attitudes towards the British.
Which = the most widely revered, respected, trusted and admired group in society?
A) Politicians and members of parliament
B) Tabloid journalists
C) Basically decent people from all walks of society.
(Worth one point)
So, how did you do? A score of 50% or more = a pass. Are you a True British Citizen? Are you not?
For those brave and noble few who are good enough to be British, the splendours of life in Britain await. Those who fail to integrate into the British way of life will find themselves unable to enjoy the British way of life. For those who fail the future is grim; the future is foreign.
If successful, however, then fitness for citizenship candidacy will be determined by the most appropriate means of all: earning potential. We will also consider artistic, scientific and literary merits – nobody is more fittingly placed to judge these than Members of Parliament or journalists. We are a land famous for our cultural achievements: if newcomers cannot paint, sing, or write with talent, then they are quite simply beyond Britishness. For those permitted to remain here on sufferance, the future is golden. Once here, they will be made to work of their own volition. They will volunteer or suffer the consequences. The future is bright for them; their future is British.
 This section is actually paraphrased from portions of ‘Immoral Earnings’ by Philippe Legrain in The Guardian; February 20th 2008: http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/philippe_legrain/2008/02/immoral_earnings.html
 This quote is from Liam Byrne in ‘Points based immigration system comes into effect’ by Andrew Sparrow in The Guardian, Friday February 29th 2008. http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2008/feb/29/immigrationpolicy.immigration?gusrc=rss&feed=society . I made the rest up. Liam Byrne was later replaced by Phil Woolas, whose sensibility has followed his predecessor’s suit.
Further reading on the Subject of British Values:
The point of this overall piece was that ‘Britishness’ and ‘British values’ are nebulous concepts; and when used to justify chauvinism they become distinctly odious. This is not solely because they denigrate foreign cultures or achievements, but because they also lead to a thoroughly insular view of society in Britain. Britain is not perfect – no country is. The following are resources for people who wish to understand matters, rather than berate the supposed short-comings of others.
For a discussion of the Home Office’s threats to withdraw passports from migrants who protested against the United Kingdom’s involvement in wars abroad, see: ‘War protest migrants may face passport penalties: Home Office proposes points-based citizenship system penalising those showing ‘active disregard for UK values’. By Alan Travis in The Guardian; 3rd August 2009:
Homosexuals were finally allowed to serve in Britain’s military in 1999 – but only after the European Court of Human Rights had declared discrimination herein illegal. See: ‘Head to head: Gays in the military’ published by the BBC; September 27th 1999: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/458752.stm
In regard to homelessness in Britain see the following: ‘Official Homelessness Statistics: Overview’ by the charity ‘Crisis’; last updated 3rd July 2008:
For a brief discussion of homelessness among ex-servicemen see ’Marking Time: A Portrait of British Ex-servicemen’. By Stuart Griffiths in The Guardian; (no date provided):
The BBC has produced a short article discussing the number of families homeless in Britain: ‘Homeless Families Total 100,000’; 13th December 2004:
The Guardian notes the number of Eastern Europeans homeless in London:
‘Number of Homeless in London Leaps 15%’. By Owen Bowcott; 7th July 2009:
How many British children are believed to be living in poverty? 4 million as of 1999; which = over a third. See: ‘UK: Four Million Children Living in Poverty’. BBC; 20th July 1999.
See also: ‘The experiences and attitudes of children from low-income families towards money’. By Jules Shropshire and Sue Middleton; 29th March 1999:
How many women earn less than their male counterparts while doing the same job?
See: ‘Salary Secrecy Penalises Women’. BBC; 14th January 2004:
Is motherhood debilitating to women? See: ‘Motherhood Affects Women’s’ Pay’. BBC; 11th March 2008:
What about ethnic pay gaps? See: ‘Ethnic Staff Suffer 12% Pay Gap’. By Phil Baty in The Times Higher Education supplement; 31st May 2002:
See also: ‘Moving on up? Ethnic minority women and work’. By Lucinda Platt, Equal Opportunities Commission; Autumn 2006:
Also: ‘Salary Survey Reveals 17% Ethnic Pay Gap’. By Anita Rice in Law Gazette; 22nd May 2008: http://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/salary-survey-reveals-17-ethnic-pay-gap
These are no mere facts, of course: these are British facts.