I pledge to thee…most unfashionab-ly

What could be less modern and less in tune with the majority of the UK than pledging an oath to the Queen? Its actually quite hard to think of something … yet this is one of the possible proposals of the Goldsmith citizenship review.

Although some consultation groups did input into the production of the report I feel that here’s a great example of an area where a much wider and more open involvement and opinion gathering process could save a great deal of trouble and condemnation. (See below for collected comments.) The whole thing feels very out of touch, especially when considered in the context of the lives of children and young people.

In fact, one of the consultation groups that input into the process came up with the finding that:

“While people could, on reflection, define these notions of citizenship [referring to neighbourly acts of concern] and were often actively engaged in citizenship, it was clear that they did not think of themselves or even call themselves citizens…Importantly, also, participants acknowledged the fact that the notion of citizenship was not fashionable. The past referencing nature of citizenship, 1940’s and 1950’s, gave it a distinct flavour of not being ‘cool’ particularly for young people.”

In fact, here is an example citizenship ceremony oath from the report which illustrates this dated and bureacratic attidude to modern citizenship:

“49. The implied duty to obey the law may be analysed as the main element of reciprocal obligation owed as a result of the protection extended to all in the jurisdiction. This reciprocal link between protection and allegiance is shown in the form of the oath and pledge taken by those who acquire British citizenship or one of the forms of British nationality: “I, [name], swear by Almighty God 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 uphold its democratic values. I will observe its laws faithfully and fulfil my duties and obligations as a British citizen.”

I admire the principle of the thing, there is no doubt that we need to nurture Britain’s ailing community spirit and pride. I believe that we ought to value the good things we have here in Britain more highly. Let’s concentrate on doing it from within communities though – with real people. This oath stuff just sounds more American than British to me… ;) (Americans, please address related issues to the comments box below!)

Here’s a selection of criticism from others:

Head teachers have come out with criticism of the plans with John Dunford condemning it as a “half baked” idea, Helena Kennedy ( formerly of the Power Inquiry into public participation) commented “To ask people who are 16 years of age, who have been brought up in Britain and who already feel that they are part of something to do this, I think, is a pointless thing. I think it’s also very divisive because there is a significant percentage of the population who would find it very uncomfortable and probably wouldn’t be very happy about their children making such an oath.”

Condemnation also came from Mohammed Umar- chair of the Ramadhan Foundation – a Muslim Youth organisation- he said’Asking children to swear an allegiance to the Queen will not help them understand the nature of this country; I believe this sort of sham ideas will alienate young people further from society,’

Lastly, as Mark Steel jokes in the Independent “They gave the job of reviewing British citizenship to Lord Goldsmith, who’s concluded everyone should undergo a ceremony in which they pledge an oath of allegiance to the Queen. This is so advanced the rest of Europe only abandoned it 200 years ago.”

Read more in:

The Times

Guardian

Spectator

Nick Robinson BBC

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2 Comments

  1. I was also struck by comments on the Today programme that swearing the Oath at 16 or 18 would ‘Mark becoming a citizen’…

    …which would be a great way to cement the idea that young people are pre-citizens, and only stakeholder-in-waiting in society – rather than contributors, citizens and stakeholders now.

    And that seems a little counter-productive to me.

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