Shortly after my 17th birthday I joined the Royal Marines, swearing an oath of allegiance to the Queen in the process. Today there is a proposal from the UK Labour government that all children should do the same, even suggesting that they will pay reduced university or community tax fees as a consequence. In other words those who do not take the oath will be penalised, they will have to pay more for those things.
The idea of requiring everyone to swear an oath of allegiance is outrageous and nothing to do with being British, it is quite the opposite. It leaves me feeling incandescent with rage. The Britain that I grew up in defended free speech and had just fought a war to defeat the kind of tyrannical fascism of which this proposal forms a part. CCTVs, DNA databases, surveillance cameras, community support officers and neighbourhood wardens, thought crimes punishable by imprisonment. Big Brother is here. Even Aldermaston, the symbol of protest, has followed Mr Haw into silence.
The proposal comes from Lord Goldsmith, the man who, as Attorney General, provided Tony Blair with a fig-leaf to cover his obscenities (war crimes). The last thing he and his ilk want is free speech: every day sees another small ratchet in the direction of Britain becoming a controlled, compliant society. Nobody has time to ask questions, let alone stand back and think about it. Reflection has become a luxury, the freedom to speak truth is slipping away like sand through our fingers.
Free speech? I grew up with my father's words ringing in my ears ... “I may disagree with everything you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it”. He meant it and fought against fascism as a pilot in the RAF. He was an obstinate, opinionated and tough man. We need a lot more like him now.