Psst - want to pass the new citizenship test?

Model of Opening Ceremony

I wonder if Theresa May read beyond the front page of the Sunday Times on which she featured in the lead story headlined "God Save the Queen test for migrants".

The home secretary is in the midst of giving Labour's citizen test for wannabe Brits something of a makeover. Apparently the new version will "focus on the essentials of Britishness".

Included will be questions about Dickens, Shakespeare, Hardy, Austen and Turner (Joseph Mallord William, not Tina). In future, the article says, anyone opting to take the Life in the United Kingdom test will need to be across our biggest hitters and greatest moments, from the Beatles to Brunel, from Crick and Watson to the Battle of Waterloo.

I don't know how much the planned refresh will cost, but history tells us that bureaucracy is rarely cheap.

But in this instance it could be. Should the home secretary have turned to page three of the newspaper she would have seen the headline It'll be a hard truths night (subscription required).

Start Quote

[Boyle] has given the 2012 show a political twist by celebrating immigration and protest movements while raising the spectre of mass unemployment”

End Quote Sunday Times

This speculates on the contents of Danny Boyle's 2012 Olympic opening ceremony, which to my knowledge is not wholly wide of the mark. The ceremony too will "focus on the essentials of Britishness" with a procession marking some of the UK's notable achievements and achievers, featuring the aforementioned Beatles and Brunel.

It appears that the opening ceremony is gearing up to be a spectacular beginners' guide to modern British history aimed at a billion people, many of whom know little of our "isle full of noises" or the native tongue.

So here's a money-saving idea for the home secretary. Stop work on a revised citizen test, save some consultancy fees, and instead set your TV to record Danny Boyle's opening ceremony on 27 July. It's likely to be a ready-made training video to form the basis of a citizen test on Britishness.

And having already spent £27m on the theatrical extravaganza, it would make financial sense. After all, isn't this just the sort of inter-government cooperation that is required in these cash-strapped times when British public life is all about greater efficiencies?

London 2012 - One extraordinary year

London 2012 One extraordinary year graphic

What's more, the Oscar-winning director has added an element to his show that in all likelihood will be missing from a revamped citizen test, and that's a few laughs.

If there is one thing any immigrant really ought to grasp before committing him or herself to a life of rainy summers in a sports-obsession land, it is our sense of humour.

So, sit them in front of the video, see if they laugh at the right moments (designed by Boyle or otherwise) and mark accordingly.

Because it is by being amused by life's ironies and absurdities that makes living in the UK worthwhile.

Will Gompertz Article written by Will Gompertz Will Gompertz Arts editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    Since incompetence is such a large part of British life, only those who fail the test should be granted citizenship :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    As our education system appears to be failing due to political interference perhaps we should adopt the HIB method from the USA.

    Only immigrants with exceptional academic qualifications get in. They currently fill 90% of all university posts in the USA. This is the only reason the USA is still a world power.


    get politicians out of education NOW!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    The current test is ridiculous and the questions irrelevant. My partner spent a couple of hours flicking through the guide, sat the test - and got 100%. Many people fail because they dont understand English as opposed to England. Why not test English skills more thoroughly? Good language skills help integration not inane questions about the NHS or Shakespeare.

  • Comment number 37.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    When will this bunch of snakeoil salesmen realise we neither want nor need anymore immigration, especially from the african/asian areas.
    Anyone who does come in better be the next nobel prize winner and be fianancially self sufficient with health insurance to cover thier whole stay.
    This madness needs to end very quickly, this is another sopp to avoid real action.


Comments 5 of 40


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