Unusual British citizenship search terms

13 August 2009
by Henry

It’s been an incredible last few weeks. There’s been an enormous amount of interest in How British Are You? since the government announced the new points-for-passports policy. Traffic to this site has hockey sticked – although I fully expect this to calm down as search trends move on.

It’s also been fascinating to work out how people discovered this website. However I’m completely baffled as to why I appear in the results for this particular search.

For the record, I’m not in Maidstone nor do I sell weed – just books I’m afraid.

Can your MP pass the British citizenship test?

12 August 2009
by Henry

MPs and the Commons Speaker stand at the bar of the Lords Chamber

There’s been lots of discussion on blogs and Twitter this week about the citizenship test. Many British born citizens have reported how they’ve failed the test and questioned the test’s usefulness. After all, if this is a test about British life then surely anyone born in the UK should instinctively be able to pass with flying colours.

Some people have suggested that MPs probably wouldn’t be able to pass the test. Here is what happened when journalist Daniel Adam quizzed Mike Gapes (Labour MP for Ilford South) on his knowledge:

The conditions were not exactly the same as those stipulated by the Home Office. In my home-made test, Gapes was required to answer only 10 questions instead of 20. These were read out to him, and he could take as long as he wanted to give his answer. But it was all over in five minutes. At the end of it, with a great big smile on his face, Gapes said ‘I have failed, haven’t I?’ His instincts (if not his answers) were right.

With only half the questions answered correctly, Mike Gapes MP, the honourable member for Redbridge, had failed the test. If his score-rate remained as low as that in a real test, and if he were an incomer to Britain, he would have been denied citizenship on grounds, presumably, of insufficient engagement with British society. Not good for someone who is meant to represent it.

It would be interesting to get test results from other MPs. So if you plan to meet with your MP in the coming weeks, take a copy of our test and see report back their score.

Photo: flickr.com/uk_parliament/ / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Alternative British Citizenship Test

7 August 2009
by Henry


Simon from Norfolk has written his own alternative version of the British citizenship test. It’s a mix of popular culture and humour – which is exactly what is missing from the official test. Here are some of my favourites:

1) Did you see the game last night? (Pick one)
a: Yes, what were Chelsea playing at?
b: Yes, what were Arsenal playing at?
c: Yes, I really fancied the labrador but it seems it was the spaniel’s night.
d: No I was busy working and contributing to the economy.

2) What do the following have in common: The Queen, turkey, Noel Edmunds, silly hats?
a: They’re all things that Prince Phillip has shot at.
b: They’re all traditional elements of a Proper British Christmas Day.
c: They’re all things that you require a licence to transport on a public highway.
d: They’re all sacred to the Church of England.

3) Barker is to Corbett as Wise is to?
a: Morecambe
b: Whitley Bay
c: Southend
d: Lowestoft

Visit Simon’s blog to take the rest of his test.

Photo: flickr.com/1967chevrolet / CC BY 2.0

Snapped: Government’s initial draft of Great British Values

6 August 2009
by Henry

My, what a long lens you have...

Guardian reader Sirorfeo provides some interesting revelations on the initial draft of Great British Values (as photographed through a transparent folder on Downing Street).

THE THIRTEEN BRITISH COMMANDMENTS [… would ‘Common Values’ sound better? G.B.]

– Thou shalt celebrate the day of our patron Saint George every year, come rain or shine, on April the…. [to consult with Culture Secretary]
– Thou shalt lament the rain in the winter, and dread the heat of the summer [… should this be humidity? -G.B.].
– Thou shalt strive for fairness and equality in all walks of public life, via a series of statutory instruments signed by our unelected and hereditary monarch
– Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and inform on him for dog-fouling.
– Thou shalt whinge incessantly about inadequate public services, whilst simultaneously refusing to pay any more tax.
– Thou shalt for thine own safety and security carry ID cards, the data on which will be duly misplaced by an errant contractor.

See the full list of commandments via Guardian

Photo: flickr.com/[email protected]/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Gordon Brown to do voluntary work

5 August 2009
by Henry

Gordon Brown in Birmingham

The BBC reports that Prime Minister Gordon Brown is planning to spend part of his summer break doing voluntary work in his Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath. A spokesman said:

The prime minister will be undertaking some community voluntary work during his time in his constituency. For obvious reasons he has agreed with the organisations concerned that any work he does will be private.

Seems a bit odd to me. Does this pledge have anything to do with the recent news to encourage would-be citizens to do voluntary work? It seems too much of a coincidence for it not to be.

Photos: flickr.com/downingstreet / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Only One in Seven Brits able to pass the UK’s Citizenship Test

4 August 2009
by Henry

union jack

According to our survey, only one in seven Brits are able to pass the government’s British citizenship test. The mock test was completed by 11,118 British people – only 1,585, or 14 per cent, achieved a pass score.

Earlier this week, the government proposed to increase the difficulty of the test and add extra topics on history and politics. However should this be happening when so few native Brits are able to pass the test already?

So how do we fix this? The citizenship test should be something that anyone who has lived here is able to pass. Anything but this is making a mockery of the process. If you’ve got a suggestion for a question that every good citizen should know, then share it with us by adding a comment to this post.

Update: Corrected the headline to match the stats. Tip of the hat to Next Left for telling us about this.

Photo: flickr.com/lwr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Daniilas Galickis on future generations of immigrants in Britain

3 August 2009
by Henry

We were recently contacted by photographer, Daniilas Galickis. Dan was studying BA Photography at Bradford College and wanted to focus his Major Project on the issue of immigration, and it’s actual effect, on the future generations. The next generation being the dreams and hopes of people who came to this land.
Dan wanted to use some of the practice questions from our study guides in a series of photos on the subject of multiculturalism and citizenship.

Being an immigrant he is particularly fascinated by this country’s identity, including multiculturalism and the ongoing relationship between Britain and immigration, making it an incredibly diverse country that is like no other in Europe or in the world.

For this project he used a large format camera, which is a completely unique working practice in photography: the cameras size contributes to attracting peoples attention, therefore sparking a more intimate visual dialogue between the viewer, photographer and the subject.

He hopes to bring wonder to people who look at it, and think about the country that they live in or their background.

Are names and borders within that space so important to define who we are as people? Is it important to have an identity? Questions that are asked to the viewer are directed to them and the subject selected from the British Citizenship test. Essentially these portraits are of British people by birth who have roots in different countries.

You can see the full set of Dan’s work on our Flickr.

Is Britishness all about statistics?

1 August 2009
by Henry

Chemistry Homework

Photographer Marsha Stewart writes about her delight and relief after passing the British citizenship test. However she’s a bit perplexed about the some of the questions in the test.

I had three statistical questions on the test. One was this: In 1971, what was the population growth of England ? I knew the answer – it’s 7.7% But how does knowing this, teach me anything about England or acclimate me into my new life here? Will the fact that 65% of all children in the UK, live with both parents, ever factor into a daily conversation?

This is a completely valid point. The test is completely sterile in terms of what it means to be British. It’s an English test on whether you can memorise rules and statistics. You can’t blame the civil servants who were tasked with writing the questions though. When you look through the materials that they had to use for the test; statistics are very tempting question fodder. Just be thankful they didn’t ask you for the telephone number for Energywatch or perhaps the website address for any of the numerous departments which are listed in the testable section of the study materials.

So what would’ve you liked to know more about?

I would have rather learned more about location of regions, cities, climate and geography of smaller islands that lie on the outer perimeters of UK. And although it touched on government – I wanted more details on how parliament actually functions

Good points. There’s actually nothing about geography in the test – which I personally think is missing a trick. Basic UK geography is easy to test and it’s really useful in day to day life. And as for the smaller islands surrounding the UK, why not? I’d love to be able to understand the Shipping Forecast. And although I don’t even own a boat or go sailing it would at least have a bit more relevance than knowing the percentage of ethnic minorities that live within the London area (another brilliantly irrelevant statistic).

Photo: flickr.com/entozoa/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

No Union Flag on ID Cards

31 July 2009
by Henry

UK ID Card - Front

The Guardian reports that the UK’s new ID cards will not display the Union Flag or even the EU flag. The rationale being that they wanted to respect the “identity rights” of Irish nationals living in Northern Ireland.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said ID cards had been unpopular for so long that few remembered their genesis. “They were part of a clumsy cohesion agenda to unite us around flags rather than values. They were to fight the multiple identities that make up modern Britain by forcing us to choose between the various ties that bind us. Ironically, in forgetting the very ‘un-Britishness’ of ID cards, the government has united the country against them.”

Does Monica Ali Know Enough to Be British?

31 July 2009
by Henry

Monica Ali writes in The Atlantic about the British citizenship test and how it fails to present a true picture of the real Britain.

I remember taking one of the online tests that immediately sprang up, to see if I knew enough to be truly British. I did fine on the historical questions. The other stuff was trickier. I couldn’t name the four national saint’s days in order (Saints David, Patrick, George, and Andrew). PG, I guessed, was one of the nation’s favorite brands of teabags. It is—but in the book, PG was the “Parental Guidance” part of the cinema classification system. I did guess right that if we spill someone’s pint in the pub, what we are supposed to do is offer to buy them another. (Although I had been tempted to plump for another option, which was to prepare for a fight in the car park. That might be more accurate, in certain pubs at least.)