British citizen or other? Reflections on New Labour's reforms to the UK citizenship process
- 100 Downloads
The reforms to the citizenship process under New Labour were part of a policy of reinvigorating citizenship as a tool for fostering community cohesion. By requiring newcomers to learn English, take a test and attend a ceremony, the Government aimed to help them to integrate better into British life, thereby reducing problems allegedly caused by growing diversity in large multicultural cities. Several years since the introduction of these reforms, and in the wake of yet more changes by the Coalition government, it is important to reflect critically on their impacts. To do so, this article presents the results of a study which sought the opinions of non-EU immigrants and others with direct experience of the new citizenship process. The research found that, contrary to New Labour's promotion of British citizenship as a common bond, the process serves to reinforce ‘otherness’ and to encourage an instrumental approach to ‘getting nationality’. It is argued that, in modelling the process on those that operate uncontroversially in North America, New Labour forgot the most important ingredients: public support for multiculturalism and respect for newcomers.
Keywordscitizenship immigration integration cohesion New Labour
Our research was funded by a British Academy small grant. We would like to acknowledge the valuable contributions of Andrew Dobson, Philip Catney and all those who participated in the interviews and focus groups. Extra special thanks are due to the teaching staff at Stoke College and the Community Partnership Learning centre in Shelton for their help in recruiting participants. Thanks also to the three peer reviewers and editors of British Politics for their helpful feedback and input into the final version of the article.
- Advisory Board on Naturalisation and Integration (ABNI). (2006) Progress Toward Integration. 2005/06 Annual Report of the ABNI 2004–2006. Secretariat's Office, ABNI.Google Scholar
- Advisory Board on Naturalisation and Integration. (2007) Second Annual Report 2006–2007. Secretariat's Office, ABNI.Google Scholar
- Andreouli, E. and Stockdale, J.E. (2009) Earned citizenship: Assumptions and implications. Tottel's Journal of Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Law 23 (2): 165–180.Google Scholar
- BBC News. (2010) British citizenship test: One in three immigrants fail. 27 May, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8707152.stm, accessed 19 August 2011.
- Billig, M. (1995) Banal Nationalism. London: Sage.Google Scholar
- Blair, T. (2006) Speech on Multiculturalism and Integration to The Runnymede Trust. London, 8 December 2006.Google Scholar
- Citizenship and Immigration Canada. (2012) Celebrate citizenship website, http://www.cic.gc.ca.
- Commission on Cohesion and Integration. (2007) Our shared future, http://www.integrationandcohesion.org.uk.
- Delanty, G. (2000) Citizenship in a Global Age: Society, Culture, Politics. Buckingham, UK: Open University Press.Google Scholar
- Gamble, A. and Wright, T. (eds.) (2009) Britishness: Perspectives on the British Question. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.Google Scholar
- Gidley, B. (2011) Who are Britain's New Citizens? Oxford, UK: Compas, ‘breakfast briefing’ sheet found at: http://www.compas.ox.ac.uk/fileadmin/files/People/staff_publications/Gidley/5671%20Compas%20Briefing%20Doc%207_5%20final.pdf, accessed 25 March 2012.Google Scholar
- Goldsmith, P.L. (2008) Citizenship: Our common bond, http://www.justice.gov.uk/docs/citizenship-report-full.pdf, accessed 10 November 2008.
- Goodhart, D. (2006) Progressive Nationalism: Citizenship and the Left. London: Demos.Google Scholar
- Home Office. (2001) Secure Borders, Safe Haven: Integration with Diversity in Modern Britain. White Paper. London: HMSO.Google Scholar
- Home Office. (2007) Life in the United Kingdom: A Journey to Citizenship, The official publication valid for tests taken from April 2007, 2nd edn. London: HMSO.Google Scholar
- Home Office Border and Immigration Agency. (2008) The Path to Citizenship: Next Steps in Reforming the Immigration System (Green Paper). London: HMSO.Google Scholar
- Home Office. (2010) The Home Secretary's immigration speech. Delivered by the Home Secretary, Theresa May to the Policy Exchange, 5 November 2010, http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/media-centre/speeches/immigration-speech, accessed 11 August 2011.
- Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants. (2008) Response to the Goldsmith Review, http://www.jcwi.org.uk/policy/Consultation+Responses/Citizenship, accessed 22 August 2011.
- Joppke, C. (2010) Citizenship and Immigration. London: Polity.Google Scholar
- Kelly, R. and Byrne, L. (2007) A Common Place. London: Fabian Society.Google Scholar
- Kiwan, D. (2008) Becoming a citizen: A learning journey. Lord Goldsmith Review of Citizenship. London: Ministry of Justice, http://www.justice.gov.uk/docs/becoming-a-citizen.pdf, accessed 1 March 2009.
- Kymlicka, W. (1995) Multicultural Citizenship: A Liberal Theory of Minority Rights. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Levesley, T. (2008) British citizenship: Experience and perceptions. An EdComs report for the Lord Goldsmith Review Secretariat, http://www.justice.gov.uk/reviews/docs/experience-perceptions.pdf, accessed 19 August 2010.
- Levitas, R. (2005) The Inclusive Society? Social Exclusion and New Labour. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
- Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services (LACORS). (2008) Citizenship ceremonies make migrants ‘feel more British’. (online press release dated 24 November), http://www.lacors.gov.uk/lacors/PressReleaseDetails.aspx?id=20624, accessed 19 February 2009.
- Malik, K. (2012) We should talk about this. 18 March, http://kenanmalik.wordpress.com/2012/03/18/we-should-talk-about-this/, accessed 19 March 2012.
- Mason, J. (2005) Qualitative Researching, 2nd edn. London: Sage.Google Scholar
- Modood, T. (2007) Multiculturalism: A Civic Idea. London: Polity Press.Google Scholar
- Parehk, B. (2009) Being British. In: A. Gamble and T. Wright (eds.) Britishness: Perspectives on the British Question. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 32–40.Google Scholar
- Peucker, M. (2008) Similar procedures, divergent function: Citizenship tests in the United States, Canada, Netherlands and United Kingdom. International Journal on Multicultural Societies 10 (2): 240–226.Google Scholar
- Rimmer, M. (2008) The future of citizenship ceremonies, http://www.justice.gov.uk/docs/goldsmith.pdf, accessed 1 March 2009.
- Rutter, J. (2007) From refugee to citizen: Standing on my own two feet. In: L. Cooley, S. Reynolds and R. Sheldon (eds.) A research report on integration, ‘Britishness’ and citizenship. London: Metropolitan Support Trust and the Institute of Public Policy Research.Google Scholar
- Rutter, J., Latorre, M. and Sriskandarajah, D. (2008) Beyond Naturalisation: Citizenship Policy in an Age of Super Mobility. A research report for the Lord Goldsmith Citizenship Review. London: Institute for Policy Research.Google Scholar
- Stoke-on-Trent City Council. (2007) City profile, http://www.stoke.gov.uk/ccm/navigation/council-and-democracy/statistics/city-profile/, accessed 19 February 2009.Google Scholar
- Stoke-on-Trent Governance Commission. (2008) Report to John Healey, Minister for Local Government and to Stoke-on-Trent City Council. Department for Communities and Local Government.Google Scholar
- Travis, A. (2011) David Cameron launches immigration crackdown. The Guardian, 10 October, Monday, www.guardian.co.uk.