MR PENDLE: We’re sadly lacking in knowledge when it comes to British history

there was a lot of fuss a few weeks ago over the Home Office’s announcement that a new version of the UK citizenship test was to be introduced.

Applicants will in future have to show they had an understanding of key moments in British history, it was reported.

But why should anyone wanting to come to live here have to demonstrate they know about our rich and colourful past when so many people who are native Britons and have lived here all their lives clearly do not know much about it themselves?

If you doubt Mr Pendle on that one, just watch any quiz programme on television and those desperate for their 15 minutes in the spotlight will answer almost every question put to them about over-hyped film and television celebrities correctly and then smile at the camera before annoyingly applauding themselves for the depth of their “knowledge”.

But ask them to name the fate of Henry VIII’s six wives, the date of a famous battle or some other basic historical fact from the past which they were – or ought to have been, as Mr Pendle was – taught at school and their cocky smiles quickly vanish as the true ignorance of their homeland’s past is displayed to a watching nation as they come up with a stupid answer.

Testing would-be residents of this country on their understanding of its history may have its place in a citizenship test – but equally important should be their understanding of the English language, an ability to speak it reasonably well and a job to go to.

mr Pendle was forced to smile when he heard the comments of the leading lights in the Eastleigh by-election last Thursday night.

For he could have substituted candidates from elections down the years in the shoes of the latest batch and the sentiments would echo back in time.

The political parties involved are irrelevant.

It is the words that are always the same – and confirm that politicians live in a world all of their own, seemingly oblivious that what they are saying is waffle dressed up for the media.

For the winners, the result is “stunning”, even when all the polls have suggested victory was theirs.

For the losers, if they happen to be the party in government, defeat is shrugged off as a protest vote, even when the opinion polls show them to be lagging behind.

And fringe parties who do well forever tell us their performance is not a freak result, only for reality to prove otherwise next time around.

It could be argued they would not be expected to say anything else in the circumstances – but surely even they can see the ordinary man in the street can see through their platitudes for what they are.