This was the noble Lord's response to a question from John Humphrys on the 'Today' programme a short while ago about whether one could expect citizens of the UK, who oppose a monarchical system and instead favour a republican system, of whom there are apparently several millions, to swear an 'oath of allegiance' to Her Majesty the Queen.
Firstly, I do not think it is very 'British' to expect all children, as is being suggested by the Labour government and its representative on Earth, Gordon Brown, to swear an oath of allegiance as some sort of a rite of passage into adulthood. The idea will quite rightly be seen as risible, by most people. And I, broadly-speaking, am a pretty strong supporter of a monarchical system, for all sorts of reasons.
It's perfectly true that people in the military, the police, even MPs (if they want to receive their Parliamentary allowances, that is) must swear an Oath of Allegiance to the Queen, but some MPs have refused to do so, notably MPs representing Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland, but there have been others. Just how out of touch is Lord Goldsmith with the political realities of the UK. Equally, just how out of touch is he, and the rest of this sorry Labour government, with the whole notion of what it means to be 'British'?
Frankly I understand the problem - it would be nice to have some focus of the low-key pride, patriotism, whatever you want to call it, that most people in Britian feel even if they almost never put these thoughts into actions or words. However, that is a part of what it is to be British. Most British people are pretty uncomfortable with overt signs of unalloyed 'patriotism' except in very specific cases. For example, the 'Last Night of the Proms', which another Labour politician, equally out-of-touch (i.e. Margaret Hodge), thinks is 'divisive'. I really do not think anyone in this Government has the first clue about what even they wish to achieve, far less how to get there. But is the journey worth making? I seriously doubt it. OK, so persons becoming naturalised British citizens now have to go through a citizenship ceremony, which includes an oath to the Queen, from what I gather - fair enough, if people wish to become British they'd probably be prepared to jump through a hoop in order to achieve that objective if they were sufficiently keen. I accept, too, that some people may find such ceremonies genuinely moving and who am I to deny them this simple pleasure?
However, the idea that we need to have some kind of symbolic gesture by every person born here when they reach adulthood is, to me, the very essence of what being British is NOT about. They may do what they like in the US, France or Thailand (where the monarch is genuinely revered as I know very well), but to try and create some kind of artificial substitute in the UK will simply lead to ridicule and to that thrawn, obstinate trait in the British character which often objects to being forced to do anything, except under circumstances of extreme duress. For example during the Second World War the British people accepted, generally speaking, that all sorts of things would have to change until the crisis was over (ID cards, rationing, controls on movement, etc), but pretty soon after it was over the whole system was dismantled and the Prime Minister who, most people would agree, led us to victory, was turfed out of office. Such things are completely inexplicable to people who are not British, from what I gather, but to me it was absolutely inevitable in the British context.
Until the Labour Party and its acolytes take a reality check and look at the reality of the people they aspire to govern, for the moment - until we turf them out! - then they will come up with this kind of 'un-British' notion. Personally, though, I have no hesitation in ending this with 'God Bless your Majesty', although many would be extremely uncomfortable; in my 'defence' of course (if such a thing is needed) I don't really even believe in God so my words are somewhat meaningless, even if the sentiment is sincere - like a lot of things in Britain; it's part of the bizarre conundrum of what it means to be British!