Should we have an oath of allegiance?

March 11, 2008

The QueenLord Goldsmith’s suggestion that students swear allegiance to the Queen when they leave school has prompted a fierce reaction.

Civil rights lawyer Baroness Kennedy said the proposal made her groan and described it as a risible and empty gesture.

Teaching union boss John Dunsford of the Association of School and College Leaders told the BBC it was “a half-baked idea that should be left to go mouldy”.

Goldsmith says he welcomes the debate, noting that similar cynicism greeted the introduction of citizenship ceremonies for new immigrants in 2004, which he says have been a great success.

He says it is up to the government — if it accepts his recommendations — to decide what form that ceremony should take.

But he told BBC radio on Tuesday that he personally favoured students swearing their loyalty to the Queen.

The ceremony would be just one of a number of measures to reverse a “diminishing sense of national pride”, which include a national public holiday along the lines of Australia Day.

Has the reaction been too swift? Is there a place for an American-style oath of allegiance in our schools? Or is that just not the British way?


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And if you’re a republican? Will it be like MPs who refuse to swear allegiance to the Queen and are then excluded?

Being a functioning part of society doesn’t require dumb patriotism. A person who is brainwashed into putting country above humanity will be far less likely to question nationalistic acts like the invasion of Iraq. But then, perhaps that’s what the Government actually wants.

Posted by Andrew Fish | Report as abusive

I think its a great idea…. My God, good ‘ole Tony’s Labour govt will have a heart attack at this!!!! They have been striving to break down/sell off everything British since they came to power.

Anything that makes people unite as opposed to segregate and separate is a good thing… Even if it is a bit half baked its a start.

Shame its 15 years too late!

Posted by MilanoBob | Report as abusive

…..and who exactly does the queen swear allegiance to?

There was a time when this country was a Christian nation.

The children of the rebellion have kicked the Bible out of the classroom.

God will judge this nation.

Posted by colin ford | Report as abusive

…and why exactly do we feel the need to copy the Americans ?

Posted by Lorne | Report as abusive

I find it slightly ironic (a British thing in itself) that this Government denounced an actual British festivity which at least some of the public want last week (the Proms) and this week propose the introduction of something quite frankly irrelevant. We should celebrate our Britishness – but this would merely celebrate the monarchy. Having a British day is the best idea – I think the vast majority of Britons would welcome an extra holiday!

Posted by Nigel | Report as abusive

This is an extraordinary proposal; society in the UK is still divided along class lines and as long as we have a Monarchy this country will never be a modern democracy. The idea of swearing allegiance to any one thing harks back to days of Empire and the King; How relevant to young people from varied ethnic backgrounds is the Queen? The sooner the Monarchy is swept away the better; much better to work towards common goals to ensure a modern working robust democracy is in place for all to take part in and benefit from.

Posted by John Bell | Report as abusive

This proposal strikes me as a last ditch attempt to promote feelings of nationalism in an increasingly globalised world. But why are they trying to do this? I think really its missing the point. The problem is not with people not feeling like British Citizens, the problem is with people not feeling or acting like citizens at all. The real problem here is libertarianism and individualism, leading to a breakdown in community which was kick started into the mainstream during the Thatcher government. Its been continued over the last 25 years with continuing neoliberal policy, putting money and business before community and people, alongside the comlplete change in the demographics of the workforce. All of this has increasing caused neighbourhoods of self preserving individuals, divorced parents, single working mothers and a distrust of strangers and neighbours. Feelings of community and belonging to a real tangible local group are far more important than the feeling of belonging to the arbitrary concept of the nation state. What does it mean to be British anyway? What concept of Britishness does Lord Goldsmith aspire to with these proposals? Britain has always been a incredibly diverse and constantly evolving country. Being forced to pledge alegiance to the archahic concept of a monarch will simply have no meaning or alienate young people. What should be encouraged is local grass roots citizenship and belonging to groups which actually impact you…a local football team, a local pub, a community centre for kids…turning off the TV and inviting your neighbours round for dinner. Despite all this, if we get a day off for being British I’m all for it.

Posted by D-tec | Report as abusive

Being an expat living in Spain, and also a History student, i find certain similarities in past european dictatorships.
Why do we have to be like everyone else? I thought the whole point of being British was to be different to everyone else, like driving on the left-side of the road and drinking room-temparature ale; things you can be proud of!
And if you defend democracy like we do, why do you have to make an oath to someone who was not elected democratically? The figure of the Monarchy should be something that you choose to acknowledge, and not be made to swear to recognise as your ruler.
This just seems to be the attempt of some old conservatives to get the young uns’ to pay attention, and give the Queen some recognition.
And “some sense of citizenship” sounds awfully nationalist in this global, multinational era in which we live in: your all European citizens like everyone else, for crying out loud!

Posted by Craig | Report as abusive

The fact that members of ethnic minorities don’t feel this is relevant is precisely the driver! Absolutely everybody should swear allegiance, although whether it should be the monarch is another thing. Those that are not allied to the common grouping are a threat to the democracy you are searching so have for

Posted by Nigel | Report as abusive

I am English. not scottish Irish welsh , my religion is my own personal affair, Laicity should be the order of the day , Followed By a republic , if these people think they can use old french ideas and words such as “Tolerance” To spend our money as is inevitably the case when giving a national holiday and printing all the paraphenalia thats besides hiring Halls etc. Its disgusting ! why not have a global people are people or Human day ? Anyway as long as the words dieu est mon droit are on the coat of arms one cannot unite all the religions especialy those non beleivers , an Englishmans home is his catle is’nt that enough ?

Posted by Joshmickael | Report as abusive

Firstly, with regard to this forum, I refuse to listen to any expats who pass comment on a debate about a country they chose to leave.

I can’t see how ‘oath of allegiance’ will change the attitude of the youth of today? A lot of them don’t respect the average man on the street, so why should they care about the Queen, who probaly means nothing to them anyway?

It is an outdated suggestion and one that will never work in a multi-cultural society, such as the UNited Kingdom

Did the taxpayer have to pay for Lord Goldsmith to come up with this suggestion? If so, I want my money back!

Posted by Ken (North West | Report as abusive

I am opposed to pledging allegiance to the Queen. With no disrespect to her personally, we had no freedom of choice to choose her in the first place, and we have no mechanism to replace her if she did not measure up to the job. We have no choice of her successor. Besides, would we have to take another oath when a new monarch succeeds the throne?
I have nothing against pledging allegiance to the Constitution of the United Kingdom and its laws.

Posted by Chris Lumb | Report as abusive

I am an American military member. All Federal office holders….judges, military, government, swear allegiance to the constitution of the United States. No allegiance is sworn by any other citizen. Why does Britain want to make all citizens swear allegiance to anyone?

Posted by Adam | Report as abusive