I’m not sure that immigrants swearing an allegiance to Britain – as Dame Louise Casey has suggested, lamenting the lack of integration among many migrant communities – is quite in the British tradition.
Historically, incomers didn’t develop allegiance to the United Kingdom through any formal coercion by the state. They “absorbed” Britishness through personal experience, through national activities such as the Last Night of the Proms, Christmas carol services, the Trooping of the Colour and the Queen’s Christmas Day broadcast. And, possibly, cricket.
The fundamental difference between Britain and France was that the French state consciously set out to “make citizens into Frenchmen”, whereas in Britain it was supposed to be achieved by osmosis.
Maybe that isn’t working successfully any more, as Dame Louise seems to conclude. Too many immigrant communities – especially Islamic ones – seem to lead ghettoised lives, whereby they are separated from the values of the nation in which they have chosen to lead their lives.
The misapplied policy of “multiculturalism” is, surely, partly to blame for this. But having immigrants swear allegiance is surely over-playing the heavy hand of the state.
It would be better to draw people into the British mainstream by honouring the host traditions, and ensuring that migrant children, particularly, can join in and become a part of these practices. The nativity play is a prime example of a British tradition in which all children should be encouraged to participate.
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