Psst - want to pass the new citizenship test?

Model of Opening Ceremony

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).

Start Quote

[Boyle] has given the 2012 show a political twist by celebrating immigration and protest movements while raising the spectre of mass unemployment”

End Quote Sunday Times

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?

London 2012 - One extraordinary year

London 2012 One extraordinary year graphic

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.

Will Gompertz Article written by Will Gompertz Will Gompertz Arts editor

Turner at Tate

Rivals in life, two of Britain's greatest painters Turner and Constable, are the subjects of major exhibitions in London.

Read full article

More on This Story


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    Since incompetence is such a large part of British life, only those who fail the test should be granted citizenship :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    As our education system appears to be failing due to political interference perhaps we should adopt the HIB method from the USA.

    Only immigrants with exceptional academic qualifications get in. They currently fill 90% of all university posts in the USA. This is the only reason the USA is still a world power.


    get politicians out of education NOW!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    The current test is ridiculous and the questions irrelevant. My partner spent a couple of hours flicking through the guide, sat the test - and got 100%. Many people fail because they dont understand English as opposed to England. Why not test English skills more thoroughly? Good language skills help integration not inane questions about the NHS or Shakespeare.

  • Comment number 37.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    When will this bunch of snakeoil salesmen realise we neither want nor need anymore immigration, especially from the african/asian areas.
    Anyone who does come in better be the next nobel prize winner and be fianancially self sufficient with health insurance to cover thier whole stay.
    This madness needs to end very quickly, this is another sopp to avoid real action.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    Is it not really the learning process that allows you to take the test rather than the test that matters. I am sure that they originally intended to have classes and events to help you integrate with the principals of Britishness. Sort of thing works better in post revolutionary countries where such principals are constitutionally expressed but here - laugh in the right places - good idea.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    A few years ago, the visiting speaker at an INSET day in the college where I was working used questions from the citizenship test as a quiz - 5 out of 103 staff got ten out of ten, and only one got the tie-breaker right. All staff were either British citizens or had permanent right of abode...

    (For the record, I won the quiz...)

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    They should take the test knowing that if they pass they are not entitled to any benefits for a year and if they fail they are on the first plane/boat home.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    The 'exam' should include a page asking them to explain how they think they can benefit British society by being accepted into the country, completed only in English. That should narrow the list down a little.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    I am a royalist all be it to a point, I am in part English, but born of Wales, my family is from all over the UK and Ireland, we have no issue with legitimate immigration to the UK, but my question is this: Will this test of Britishness, also include a reasonable amount of history, Language and cultural knowledge of the Celtic peoples of Britain, not just our friends east of Wales not just 1066?

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    How about we do a swap

    They all move over here and we all move over there

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    my test for these people is that there must be able to trace there family in this country back one hundred years

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    What a ridiculous test. I would ask them one simple question.

    "Did you bring enough money with you to support yourself and buy a return ticket?"

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    The only thing the 'Life in Britain' test does is add an extra fee and step into the application process. It serves no purpose other than to really test someone's English. What a waste of money and time to redo this test. I took it and the biggest benefit I received from the test was to actually test my British friend who mostly could not answer the questions!

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Is your cynicism due to your foreign sounding name?
    Perhaps you've got the wrong country or should take the test yourself?

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    How perfectly ludicrous - memorise a few simple facts, and suddenly you are a BITISH CITIZEN.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    With my experience of dealing with immigrants for the last 5 years at , I would like to advice that if you still haven't done the exam 1. Get it done as soon as possible before all these changes come into effect next year ! 2. Stop complaining about the changes !. You can't change anything just by complaining.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    It's all getting a bit Teutonic Knights, come on Theresa how generation back does your "English-ness" go?

    Apologies, appalling grammar:

    t's all getting a bit Teutonic Knights, come on Theresa how many generations does your "English-ness" go back?

    That's better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    It's all getting a bit Teutonic Knights, come on Theresa how generation back does your "English-ness" go?

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    No one seems to have mentioned the £1056 fee (not inc.passports)that UKBA charges,or that it's the final part of a journey that takes many £1000's of pounds in visa fees(remembering that all 3rd country migrants have the visa endorsement NO RECOURSE TO PUBLIC FUNDS) or how infuriating it is when people think non EU/visa nationals can claim benefits when all they are allowed to do is pay tax!!


Page 1 of 2



  • FlagsNational identity

    After the referendum, have two Scotlands emerged?

  • Two sphinxes guarding the entrance to the tombTomb mystery

    Secrets of ancient burial site keep Greeks guessing

  • Tattooed person using tabletRogue ink

    People who lost their jobs because of their tattoos

  • Two people holding up the newly discovered head of Mithras, 1954Roman puzzle

    How to put London's mysterious underground temple back together

  • Deepika PadukoneBeauty and a tweet

    Bollywood cleavage row shows India's 'crass' side

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.