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Blunkett on Citizenship

Hello, children.

My name is David Blunkett.

I’m here today to tell you all about how to be a British citizen.

So pay attention at the back there, or I’ll set my dog on you!

Just joking.

Or am I?

After all, the more YOU learn from this little talk, the more money gets paid to ME.

It’s something called performance-related pay.

Ask your teacher about it.

Now, being a citizen is a mixture of rights and duties.

We hear a lot about our rights these days - far too much, if you ask me - and not enough about our duties.

For instance, it is a citizen’s right to vote.

But I think it is also his duty to vote.

The other day in Wales we got into a very embarrassing situation because a lot of Labour voters didn’t bother to go out and vote, with the result that a lot of key seats were won by the Welsh Nationalists.

Dozy bastards.

If so many Labour voters hadn’t been such bad citizens, we wouldn’t be in the compost heap now.

It’s going to make it very difficult for us to rule Wales.

Tony was hopping mad, I can tell you.

Who is Tony?

Good question, little girl.

Tony is our chief citizen, and he has the unique ability to keep smiling no matter what he is saying.

Try it some time. It’s not as easy as it sounds.

Go on - try saying: “Of course I am very sorry that we blew up the Chinese Embassy and ten buses this morning” with a big compassionate smile on your face the whole time.

Not easy, is it?

But I digress.

Being a citizen involves knowing how Parliament works.

The way Parliament works is that when Tony thinks of a new law, he asks everyone in Parliament, the people YOU have voted for, whether they like the law or not. And if they like it, it becomes law.

If they don’t like it, they can always vote against it, as long as they realise this will totally destroy any chance of Citizen Tony ever promoting them.

So they don’t vote against it!

Simple, isn’t it?

This has worked so well that we are giving Wales and Scotland their own parliaments, which will give the Welsh and Scots an extra chance to do what Tony wants them to do.

Of course, a lot of members of Parliament have their own jobs outside Westminster, so in order to save them time and energy the Government passes a lot of laws without bothering them. We just announce the laws in Parliament.

I’ll give you a very small example.

Everyone in this country used to be called a “subject”, which was because they were subject to the monarch, but now they are called “citizens”, being subject to Tony.

For instance, today I am not teaching you how to be a “subject”, but how to be a “citizen”.

Now, there was never any formal change in Parliament to get “subjects” changed to “citizens”.

We just decided that it sounded nicer and that people would like to think of themselves more as “citizens”.

This is an idea of Tony’s, that it’s cheaper and more effective to change the name of something than the thing itself.

That’s why he calls the conflict in Northern Ireland the “peace process”.

That’s why he calls the Protestant domination of Northern Ireland “power-sharing”.

You see?

Well, that’s about enough for today.

In a moment, I will get your teachers to test you on what I have told you, and submit assessment forms, and progress reports, and citizen aptitude testing appraisals, and lots more stuff, on you.

This is called paperwork-related performance.

We have designed this so that teachers spend so much time filling in forms they don’t have enough time to cause trouble.

Or, as you say, to teach.

The Independent Friday May 14 1999