The market, Salonica

The market, Salonica
The market, Salonica

Saturday, 20 April 2013

How long were you born?

The Court of Appeal has ruled that Abu Qatada cannot be deported.  It’s cruel on the Home Secretary, Mrs May.  She thought she had finally won the war against him and the Human Rights Lobby.  She had even celebrated, choosing a new adversary that wouldn’t make a fuss: the written test for citizenship. 

“The stuff on rights,” prosaic clutter such as how to claim social security benefits, has been replaced by stuff, whoops, treasured wisdom, on culture and heritage.  Mrs May wants future citizens to know about the Armada and Trafalgar, historic triumphs like her own, but ones which cannot be reversed by old men in wigs.  Thanks to victories such as these, we don’t speak French or eat fritada.  Don’t blame the education system.  With all those Freudian Qatada rhymes, some cheeky kid could put together a limerick or two.

Mrs May announced that “historically the UK is a Christian country.”  Immigrants will have to remember that.  I don’t suppose she is suggesting the rest of us should convert.  I hope not.  She was careful to say “historically,” so anyone who bothers to find their nearest church next Sunday and sees how empty it is cannot contradict her.  Is she talking about the last one and a half millennia since Saint Columba started spreading the faith from Iona in Scotland? Or was it Dunkirk?  A Scottish name, surely – I’m a little rusty myself – or another victory in Europe. 

What she means, of course, is that the followers of a certain, politically-sensitive faith, which I can’t mention, who wish to make history through the use of certain, indiscriminate acts of violence, which I can’t specify, should understand, as Nelson, Drake and all our other heroes understood, that the best place to carry out these acts is not in England, but abroad.

I know something that won’t be in the test – the immigration scandal.  Plane-loads of foreigners were let in to the UK recently without any checks.  Pity.  I mean pity it won't be in the test. Budding citizens could have learned how to keep their job in a crisis, as Mrs May did, by blaming someone else, but they are not going to find out now because learning how to keep your job is just the type of practical point that is no longer in the test, like how to get a job in the first place, or what to do if you can’t get one, so your family don’t starve.

Wikipedia fixes Qatada’s birth in 1959/60.  You know those foreign hospitals.  Still, it couldn’t have taken that long.  It won’t be in the test either.  What else will?  The truth, of course, but all of it, beauty spots and all?  I mean the warts, not the Devon and Lake District stuff.  Whoops again, but we don’t treasure all of it, do we?  And different people treasure different things.  And there wouldn’t be room on the test paper for all of it.  For a start, do foreigners, do we ourselves, need to know that, in addition to Hamlet, Shakespeare wrote love poems to a man?

Nonetheless, a more demanding test is an excellent idea, so good it should be given to any foreigner who arrives, whether they want to be a citizen or not.  If, when he turned up a long time ago, Qatada had been asked to tick one box only in a question like this: Lord Byron (a) wrote some bad poems, (b) is famous in Greece and in one other country with a banking crisis, (c) had sex with boys on holiday, he wouldn't have known which boxes not to tick, and he wouldn't have been allowed in to the UK in the first place.