A French cabinet minister said last week that he thought the test for people adopting French nationality was too difficult because it expected them to be able to speak French and name the French national anthem.
Not to sing it, not even to recite all the words, but just to name it. And the test provides a multiple choice format with ..er.. three options. Other questions included, "Was Brigitte Bardot a film actress, fashion designer or female boxer?" This, according to Socialist minister Manuel Valls, is part of a right-wing plot designed to discriminate against foreigners and damage "social cohesion".
What test would you set today for people applying for British nationality? What makes you British? Clearly, the criteria have changed. It would be laughable to expect people to know who Oliver Cromwell was. Multiple choice options i) a politician, ii) a footballer, iii) the hero of Lady Chatterley's Lover? Other obsolete notions would be having a liking for roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, knowing the rules of cricket or being able to sing "Jerusalem". WTF?
If your grandfather fought in the Battle of Britain, you are probably Polish. If your grandmother plays the bagpipes, you are probably Spanish or Argentinian.
Maybe having a dog with a silly name is proof of being British, or does it matter more that you own a teapot (which you never use) and can make a Christmas cake?
Britain has changed. I would suggest the following tests. If you fit this profile you are probably British:
i) Being able to name all the main characters of East Enders from their photographs,
ii) Taking a regular holiday on the Costa Brava or similar Spanish resort,
iii) Being able to guess the price of a house or flat anywhere in Britain just by looking at it from the outside for twenty seconds,
iv)Knowing how to get from any London Tube station to any other London tube station without looking at the map,
v) Having a Beatles tune as your mobile phone ringtone,
vi) Being able to name six sorts of real ale and identify them in a blind testing,
vii) Having one or more blood relatives in Australia,
viii) Secretly preferring instant coffee to the real thing, which is more trouble than it's worth.
PS On a more serious note, while it is good to hear that Isimeli Baleiwai, the Fiji-born soldier who has served for 13 years in the British army, has now had his deportation order suspended, his problems are not over. The petition sponsored by UKIP seems to have had some effect and ‘Bale’ has been given limited leave to remain until his case can be reviewed but in the meanwhile he remains unable to work, access benefits or receive NHS medical treatment. There are many other servicemen who are treated appallingly under our present laws.