Democracy campaigners accuse Goldsmith of 'IKEA nationalism'

By staff writers
March 12, 2008

Unlock Democracy, the joint campaign of Charter 88 and the New Politics Network promoting democratic renewal and active engagement in the political process, has criticised Lord Goldsmith's citizenship review for its narrow view of what it means to be a UK citizen.

They accuse the Brown-backed review of coming up with ideas "antithetical to the UK's rich history" as well as being "patronising and unnecessarily divisive."

One of Unlock Democracy's main objections is to removing the right of Commonwealth and Irish citizens to vote in general elections - they say this would mean the UK turning its back from hundreds of years of history and its rich cultural links with fellow members of the Commonwealth around the world.

The campaign also claims that there is too much emphasis in Goldsmith's document on what it means to be a "good" citizen and too little on active, participative citizenship/

Widely criticised proposals to put young adults under pressure at school to pledge allegiance to the monarch would be potentially divisive, they say. "Many would welcome the questions it would raise over the legitimacy of the monarchy, but it would clearly be an unintended consequence."

Commenting on the review, director of Unlock Democracy Peter Facey declared: "We welcome this review insofar as we hope it will kickstart a national debate about what it means to be a British citizen. But despite a few positive suggestions, overall Lord Goldsmith's conclusions are a backwards step."

He added: "Lord Goldsmith seems to have a one-size-fits-all 'Ikea' view of nationalism. It is a passive view of citizenship concerned primarily with good behaviour and respecting authority. The emphasis is on deference to rather than ownership of the state. He isn't really championing citizenship at all but rather the notion that we should all be regarded as subjects of the Crown."

Facey continued: "The UK has always had a very broad franchise which includes members of the Commonwealth resident in the UK. This reflects our rich - and often less than honourable - history. There is certainly an argument that we should expect reciprocal arrangements with other Commonwealth states, but to pull up the drawbridge in the way that Goldsmith suggests is not only negative and defensive but dismissive of our past."

He concluded: "Forcing young people to decide whether or not they wish to pledge allegiance to the Queen is an interesting prospect but one with unintended consequences. In all likelihood a significant number will choose not to, politicising the monarchy and posing questions about its very legitimacy. This is clearly not something Goldsmith wants."


Ekklesia's response:

Which citizenship, whose kingdom? Simon Barrow -

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