Who will pledge allegiance to this curs’d isle?
I first became aware of my feelings about being British at school, aged about 10, when the master read out John of Gaunt's famous speech, "This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle," - and it reduced me to prideful tears.
In the light of those levels of heartfelt patriotism, recent proposals for encouraging a sense of citizenship among immigrants - issued before yesterday's report from the House of Lords that high immigration has done us little economic good and should be capped - seem pretty thin gruel, rather on a par with the inducement offered by a good insurance salesman.
True, there was one blood-stirring idea that immigrants should be obliged to pledge an oath of allegiance to the Queen - but that one, needless to say, was met with universal derision.
In future, therefore, becoming British will no longer require any declaration of love or loyalty; merely assent to a contract. Given the unlovable nature of so much of contemporary Britain - particularly the City's sensational greed and the inner city's sensational brutality - perhaps this is all that can reasonably be expected.
Times have changed. We now have a media with the will and means to dish the dirt, around the clock, about what is going on, not just in the corridors of power, but in every nook and cranny in the land. The blissful ignorance which made patriotism possible no longer exists, and will never return if the media moguls, few of whom are resident in the UK, have anything to do with it.
'I vow to thee my country'? In Rupert Murdoch's mouth, that famous pledge would be addressed to China. ·
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