Psst - want to pass the new citizenship test?
- 2 July 2012
- From the section Entertainment & Arts
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).
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?
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.