Thursday 26 February 2009

Daily Mail in want of citizenship education

Yesterday's Daily Mail complained that the statistics of those who are "foreign born" in Britain are misleading because they fail to count the next two generations, born in Britain, as either foreign born or as "immigrants". This is, presumably, because they are neither.

What the Mail wants to know too is how the Office of National Statistics somehow got the idea that those born in this country as the children and grandchildren of immigrants are "British". Their confusion between place of birth, ethnic origin, nationality and citizenship might seem like jaw-dropping ignorance of our history and constitution from such a proud and patriotic newspaper, but I would much rather take it as a helpful reminder that - while the integration of immigrants and new Britons is important - citizenship education really needs to be for everybody if it is going to work. (The Mail newsdesk might need to do some swotting up).

Anyway, as announced on Liberal Conspiracy, I am writing to Mr Paul Dacre to see if he can help to clarify the issue. (But perhaps I should drop the appeasement reference when sending it in?)

Dear Mr Dacre,

I was disappointed to read reported in today’s Daily Mail that the newspaper regards it as a mistake to consider that the children or grandchildren of immigrants are British, but rather would classify us as “second or third generation immigrants”.

"although the figures from the Government’s Office for National Statistics show an increase in numbers of foreign born people they still fail to record the true impact of immigration because they record their children as British rather than second or third generation immigrants".

I hope that your proposed reclassification of Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince Harry as not British, as second and third generation immigrants descended from the foreign-born Phillip, will not distress them too much.

But it does seem most ungrateful, when Winston Churchill was voted ‘greatest Briton’, to now strip him of that status because he had an American mother. (However strongly your newspaper disagreed with Churchill’s criticisms of appeasement in the 1930s, isn’t it now time to let bygones be bygones?)

Perhaps you could let us know who the Daily Mail thinks is truly British. I can see you probably think it is too late for my children - as “third generation immigrants”, currently aged under 3 - but perhaps there might be a tip or two they could pass on to their descendants.

So, given our shared interests in integration and citizenship, it would be terribly kind if you might let us know whether there is anything that those of us who were born here as British citizens could ever do so as to become British in your eyes.

Yours sincerely,

Sunder Katwala

The comments include a very funny response from Rob Blackie:

I am British under these criteria. But I’m a little worried that since both my parents have emigrated I might retrospectively cease to be British. Can the Mail reassure me?


Rachael Jolley said...

Hmmm, it's hard to know where to stop isn't it... Michael Portillo with his Spanish dad, and Stephen Fry with his Russian seems pretty much anyone could fall into this category. As an ardent fan of Who Do You Think You Are, the BBC1 programme about family history, it strikes me that almost everyone has a foreign grandparent, and this adds to warp and weave of Britain's evolution.

What next a Mail campaign for ID cards that mark your ethnic history?

There was an excellent TV programme a few years ago that looked at the DNA of those mad people who thought England should be kept for the English, and this meant "pure" English blood that went back to the Battle of Hastings or some such nonsense. When their DNA was tested most of those characters - found to their surprise and, in some cases, horror, that they were ancestors came from a variety of places outside the UK.

Calix said...

It's probably stating the obvious but these sorts of complaints about 'foreign born' first, second or third generation have a racist under-tone. I doubt if people who complain really worry about Australian or European parentage, but are really thinking of people of colour.

Mark Pack said...

Yeah, the Mail's definition of foreigner is so broad, it would even include me, as I've pointed out.

Zoonie said...

I already posted this comment at the original source, but being disenfranchised by the Daily Mail - and in such diverse and excellent company, at that, should be a source of pride!

THere should be a blog badge or identifer to that effect.

"The Daily Mail classifies me as a foreigner".