Proctor: All right, here’s your last question. What was the cause of the Civil War?
Apu: Actually, there were numerous causes. Aside from the obvious schism between the abolitionists and the anti-abolitionists, there were economic factors, both domestic and inter–
Proctor: Wait, wait… just say slavery.
Some people may criticise the government’s new “citizenship tests”, which are being rolled out, because of the trivial nature of their content and the simplification of a complex concept like national identity into a set of multiple-choice questions. New migrants will have to remember things such as knowing 112 is the alternative for 999 (for when you’re the victim of a racially-motivated attack, but fancy a change from the normal number) or the date of St David’s Day (which will make them the only people east of the Severn to know what it is) may sound like something out of a crap pub quiz, but that’s exactly what we should be aiming for! For what could be more British than the pub quiz – that combination of drinking, petty trivia, and temporary feelings of superiority (if you win), or sullen resentment and looking for excuses (if you lose). Of course, if you’re the poor bastard whose entire future livelihood depends on answering such trivia, you might not see it that way, but then there’s the beauty of it – only when someone becomes fully “British” will they be able to appreciate it for what it is.
Some people have complained the questions are too hard, and they look it. They really should have a music round to make it a bit gentler. At the very least, some of the questions should be no-brainers, e.g. “You’re a Minister of the Crown who has put ?15,000 worth of shares in a company who are bidding for contracts you sign into trust for the benefit of your family, instead of getting rid of them the moment you got the job. Are you: (a) Corrupt; or (b) An honest working-class lad done good, who is unfairly victimised by the sneering liberal press?” But, at least it will put them in good stead for earning their first regular income (?10 and a voucher for a packet of KP nuts, down the Dog and Duck on Thursday evenings from 7).
It does raise awkward questions though – what happens if they start extending this to other parts of the law and order system? Will people be deported if they can’t remember who scored in the 1966 World Cup final? Will the police be authorised to do “stop and quiz” in the middle of the street? What happens if you get it wrong? (“Sorry sarge, I had to shoot him eight times – he couldn’t tell me who the lead singer of Slade was”). Worst of all, it raises the spectre of a BBC2 spinoff, “University Challenge – The Immigrants”, where Paxo pits refugees of different nationalities against each other in the quest for a British passport.
Incidentally, I haven’t seen anyone from the cabinet take the test yet. Not very outgoing of them – you’d think they’d be proud to confirm themselves as the ideals of Britishness that they are. Any suggestion that it’s to avoid another Richard Caborn moment is of course completely false.
Update: Having taken the BBC’s sample test, I got 11 out of 14, although some of the questions were so ambiguous (“Where does Santa come from?” – FFS!) that I guessed and got lucky. I only deliberately picked the right answer for about half of them. I hope the real tests are better worded.