Posted on January 30th 2013
The Life in the UK test looks likely to change with each government as they try to mould the minds of the few people that jump through all the hoops and apply for citizenship or settlement in the UK in their ideal way.
So, half way through this Parliament, the Coalition Government has rewritten the test, giving us one that portrays Margaret Thatcher in a much more favourable light than previously. We can't imagine many people would exactly get worked up about Tony Blair’s reputation getting a drubbing. Given the nature of the coalition it is remarkable that we don’t get a glowing review of Mrs Thatcher, coupled with a line or two about Paddy Ashdown being an OK politician and a war hero, just to keep the junior partners happy.
There are a few threads which are woven into every policy decision that this government takes, the attack on Human Rights being one of the most apparent. Hence all questions regarding human rights have been removed from the test. Also conspicuous in its absence is any mention of the race relations act or knowledge of what to do if one should suffer racial abuse. Which is far from helpful in a country which hosts the English Defence League and a tabloid press such as ours.
Cultural and historical matters about the UK have replaced them. Are we therefore likely to have pub quiz teams ensuring that each has an immigrant on them ‘just to get the UK history round sorted’?
I had a chat with Ferdy, a Polish friend of mine about the new material in the test. He was enthusiastic.
“The one thing I have always had a problem with when it comes to integrating in the UK is in those awkward conversations about medieval British history. I feel totally left out of those lively debates about Vikings and British resistance at bus stops, in the newsagents and in the queue for the checkout at supermarkets.”
You can only feel sorry for him not being obliged to study the handbook.
Time and again, the Government use the façade of the need for integration to limit immigration and make it more difficult for people to achieve citizenship. If the test were really aimed at allowing migrants to properly enter discussions about culture, perhaps the other end of the cultural spectrum would be more useful. Questions such as “Who won the first series of Britain’s Got Talent?” or “What single was bought by people in large numbers during the Xmas period in 2009 in order to keep an X Factor winner from gaining the number one spot?” or Name six Team GB Gold Medal winners from the 2012 Olympics” would be far more pertinent.
I’d confess I couldn’t answer the first question, but that kind of knowledge would be more useful than the grand history of the UK that precious few ‘indigenous’ people know anyway.
Mark Harper claims that the content removed from the test is “mundane information about water meters, how to find train timetables, and using the internet.”
"The new book rightly focuses on values and principles at the heart of being British. Instead of telling people how to claim benefits it encourages participation in British life."
So, it’s out with mundane stuff like the internet and in with – obscure historical facts?
The UKBA website in plugging the new edition of the LIUK handbook boasts:
“The handbook celebrates British achievements and prominent individuals in the fields of science, culture, literature and sport. It also highlights the natural beauty and major landmarks of the UK. There is information on government, democracy, the legal system and how individuals can contribute to their community, plus a greater emphasis on the responsibilities as well as privileges of living in the UK.”
Perhaps it would be better to insist migrants have to watch 10 episodes of QI, they’d not only amass a decent amount of interesting, but ultimately useless information, they’d also get a handle on British humour as well. Although it seems like Ferdy has picked up the sarcasm baton and run it with already.
It all goes to show how this Government has its finger far from the pulse of British society in 2013.