It is quite remarkable that, over the past 5 years, nearly ten thousand people have become British citizens in Wandsworth and as I write this post, the 10,000th is getting ready to swear their oath to the Queen and allegiance to the country.
Wandsworth was the second borough in the country to be allowed to hold a citizenship ceremony and it was a real joy to be able to attend, just as it remains a joy to be in the Town Hall whenever a ceremony is taking place. For the vast majority, going to a ceremony it is a key moment in their lives and one they celebrate with friends and family. It is a time of enormous pride for them to get their certificate and you know that the photos taken will adorn walls and matelpieces for years to come.
If anything, it’s something of a shame that such pride in being British is reserved for new citizens. I’ve always been a little jealous of American patriotism, I’ve never been to any part of the US where the flag was not prominently flown and there wasn’t a clear pride in the values of their country.
In the UK, there always seems to be a fear that displaying the Union flag will class you as a xenophobe or a racist. And instead of being proud of our history and all we have given the world there sometimes seems to be a tendency to dwell on the guilt of our ancestors.
Maybe it is in the British psyche to be down on the nation, and to see it as its worse, rather than its best. But in Wandsworth 2,000 people a year are taking a very different view and actively choosing to be British and maybe we should try seeing all the benefits of Britishness that they see for a change.