Testing for citizenship

I just took the Official Practice Citizenship Test and got 11 out of 24, which would in real life be a fail, another £50, and my passport taken off me til I passed. (I did better in the Guardian’s mock version of it. What that says about me….) For what it’s worth, I would probably fail Fleet Street Fox‘s citizenship test: too many sports questions, though the correct answer to (5) is actually either a, b, or c so long as you take tea seriously.

5. An American offers to make you tea. Do you -
a) explain why the water needs to be boiling, not tepid; why the bag is added first, not last; and how long your personal preferences require the tea to be stewed
b) accept and politely hope for the best
c) refuse on the grounds they haven’t a hope

Plus there’s the larger citizenship question: to dunk or not to dunk. That ought to be the thousand-words-or-less essay question instead of some nonsense about Wimbledon.


On David Letterman last night:

In the event, each combatant in the clash of David versus David seemed merely to baffle and faintly annoy the other, two crabby men divided by a common language. According to advance reports of the interview, Letterman had peppered Cameron with questions from a mock UK citizenship test, several of which the prime minister had bungled.

This might have made for good television – except that no such explanation was included in the televised version, so Letterman’s randomly lobbed history trivia questions: What does Magna Carta mean in English? Who composed Rule Britannia? (Cameron knew neither), seemed entirely without purpose. Letterman spent much of the rest of his time asking deliberately dumb questions: What is the deal on Wales? – while Cameron spent his trying to sneak in references to the London Olympics.

Not knowing that Magna Carta means, in English, “the Great Charter”: What sort of ignorant school did Cameron go to that they didn’t teach him even the rudiments of Latin? Oh, yes, Eton. Did he pay a pleb to do his studying for him? (I didn’t, however, know until I looked it up just know that Rule Britannia is a poem by James Thompson, set to music by Thomas Arne. There you go.)

Can we take David Cameron’s passport away until he finds a pleb to take the test for him?

Because as Nicey notes nicely in A Nice Cup of Tea And A Sit Down:

Tea drinkers don’t tend to have moderate and liberal views on tea. We all like it the way we like it, whichever way that may be. I’m not about to come up with something as quickly doomed to failure as a pronouncement on how to make the perfect cup of tea. If you’ve ever made a cup of tea for somebody else chances are that they then politely complained about it being too weak, too strong, too milky or in the wrong sort of cup. You’ll know that when it comes to tea one size does not fit all. So its not the recipe for the perfect cup of tea that I’ll be discussing but some of the obstacles that get placed in our personal paths to it.

Writing essays on how to make a good cup of tea seems to be a British thing. George Orwell said

If you look up ‘tea’ in the first cookery book that comes to hand you will probably find that it is unmentioned; or at most you will find a few lines of sketchy instructions which give no ruling on several of the most important points. This is curious, not only because tea is one of the mainstays of civilization in this country, as well as in Eire, Australia and New Zealand, but because the best manner of making it is the subject of violent disputes.

Fifty years later the BBC ran a news story in which they asked the Royal Society of Chemistry to critique Orwell’s rules for tea-making.

Erich McElroy tried out the citizenship test in Edinburgh during the last Festival, and found:

For those we did talk to, and it was a range of Scots, Northern Irish, Irish, Welsh and English – we asked the same questions we did in London, but the results were remarkably different. Even though we initially struggled to find any Scots [on the Meadows, during the Festival], those we did find all passed the test. Does this mean the Scottish are more British than the English? Maybe if Scottish independence does happen they should keep the British Brand. Northern Ireland, Wales and England can be reformed under the new name – Great Northern Wangland.

Overall, while I was in Edinburgh, talking about my dual identity in Scotland didn’t seem as strange as it did in England. In Scotland it felt as though people seemed much more aware of their balance between the duality of their identities.

Or maybe we’re just better educated.

Kevin Williamsom writes in Bella Caledonia today:

Ultimately identity is a personal matter not a political one which is why the 2014 referendum isn’t about identity. It doesn’t matter how many Union Jacks have been detoxified through sporting events or whatever. We aren’t voting on a flag but about where we locate democracy and power. Do you want to be ruled from London? Or do you want self-government here in Scotland. Yes or No. That’s what it’s boils down to.

Like many SNPers he omits the point of devolution, but aside from that, this is a good statement: we’re not voting about Scottishness but about constitutional change. I liked what one of the commenters had to say in response to A Just Scotland:

I think we might have gotten the horse before the cart on our constitution. What are we, as a nation, trying to do and to be? That’s the first question. The next question is then, what are the forms and structures of power sharing, decision making, corporate governance and accountability we need to make that happen.

And, in that respect, I think Alistair Darling said something when he declared the Yes Scotland campaign leader Blair Jenkins to be a figurehead for Alex Salmond: how much independence of action does Jenkins have to provide the constitutional vision that Yes Scotland needs to have?

Though Darling Expenses may not have realised it, Johann Lamont’s speech for Scottish Labour’s vision was worse for Better Together than anything a march could do. I told Kezia Dugdale on Saturday that she wasn’t responsible for Ed Miliband’s failure to attack austerity: but what of Johann Lamont? Surely she gets that the best argument for voting Yes is Labour’s failure to provide a coherent alternative vision to the Tories and LibDems?

What does it say about our nation that the most enduring and universal questions are generally to do with tea, football, queuing, and mockery?

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