After the uprising of the 17th JuneIn the Guardian yesterday Jonathan Freedland took Labour's concern with Britishness and citizenship to its logical conclusion:
The Secretary of the Writers Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?
But it will be a bit odd if new arrivals have to clear a series of hurdles - language and history exams, voluntary service requirements - that those born here do not. Why should they be more British than the British? Happily, there's a simple solution: make everyone pass the same test.
What does Freedland propose doing with those of us who fail the test? Ban us from voting? Deport us? Send us to New Labour re-education camps?
Of course, it is a nonsense. Yet Freedland is right to imagine:
The boy who migrated from Albania and knows his roundheads from his cavaliers might pass while the lad born in Birmingham might fail.
I am old-fashioned enough to believe that people should know their roundheads from their cavaliers and it is true that immigrant communities often cleave to such a view of education. But if the lad born in Birmingham doesn't know his Prince Rupert from his Ireton, whose fault is it? Certainly not his. Surely it is the fault of those who taught him or run the schools?
Behind Freedman's article I sense a growing New Labour impatience with the white working class. Spending on education and health has hugely increased, yet its members still eat the wrong food, smoke and drink too much. They remain racist, sexist and quite possibly istist too.
Time, as Brecht suggested, to dissolve the people and elect another.