Sunday, March 27, 2011

UK 2011 Census

My initial reaction to receiving the 2011 census form - or to be more precise long winded looking booklet - was one of irritation. Several pages of questions apply to each member of the household and any visitors staying at the house as at today 27th March 2011. The questions are quite intrusive and relate to matters which really are no one else's business to know other than the individuals about whom they are asked. The maytrees household is also quite large and the numbers of pages/questions increase with the size of the household rendering the process of responding much more tedious than for one person households.

Then although politics are not supposed to be part of the census bureaucracy the sanction of £1000 fines for failing to complete the plethora of personal questions may offend those on the political right more than  those on the left.

Those on the right tend to extol the virtues of individual self reliance and those on the left tend to the .compulsory sharing of socialism. A compulsory census form provides more information for the common good whilst prospectively making rendering more difficult for the individual to reap the personal harvest of his own endeavours.

On balance a census once every 10 years or so seems justified on the grounds that working for the Common Good having been formally extolled in 1996 by the Bishops of England and Wales, identifying what the common good might   require some knowledge of what comprises society in these lands today. A census in which individual responses are kept confidential for a generation or more seems the least worst intrusion into private life. Some other countries deal with the need for such information by maintaining public registers. Perhaps their citizens are a more homogenous group than those of the UK or have less tolerance for idyosyncracies than historically has been the case here.

Overall; the tedium and irritation of the process are less important than the potential for enhancing the common good that the information should provide. 

The key question not asked on the census form though, is whether the citizens trust their government  to use the information wisely? Endeavouring to answer that question correctly is what leads to the huge spectrum  of political views - the more one trusts the state, the more logical is socialism, the more one trusts individual  self reliance, the more attractive is conservatism.


  1. Very interesting, Jerry. Speaking as someone who has not seen the census, I would love to have a few examples of these "intrusive" questions!

  2. Greetings Barnaby:

    The following extract from the BBC a couple of years back gives the flavour:

    "According to a specimen 2011 census on the Office for National Statistics website, they will also ask about "same sex civil partnership status" for the first time.
    The specimen census asks "how would you describe your national identity?," offering English, Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish, British or "other", with space to write in.
    The section on ethnic groups has also been expanded from 2001, with separate categories for "Gypsy or Irish Traveller" and "Arab" for the first time.
    It also asks: "How well can you speak English?... very well, well, not well or not at all."

    People who speak English well these days seem few and far between irrespective of ethnic origins, given the over-use of expletives to conceal the absence of imaginative speaking.

  3. Interesting Jerry..the Irish one is due on the 10th of April. Our last one was 2006. Questions are indeed very intrusive. Only two of us in our household so did not have to fill out all 24 pages. Fine here is €25,000 for non-return!!

  4. And as a matter of interest, Jerry, how DID you describe your national identity? English? British?... MYOB, I hear you say!

  5. Interesting question Barnaby - TX.

    The Psycholgy of the questioning may have had something to do with my choice of "English" because had "British" been the first option
    I would have given that answer.

    Instead the politically correct order of Welsh first English second and Scotish third seems directed at the
    cause of emphasising regional nationality.
    Otherwise why not put 'British' first?

    My politcal correctness point comes into play then because if regional nationalities are for some reason needed by the questioners why are they not put in alphabetical order ie English Irish Scots Welsh

    'British' would also be a convenient starting point alphabetically as well.

    Filling in the form I found so tedious I just gave "English as it was the first relevant answer. In real life I don't set much store by nationalities and loathe some countries virtual worship of the local flag. If push came to shove
    being described as a Londoner would be OK.

    At Lourdes when some Scots groups with whom we share hotel meals burst into national songs
    they sometimes ask my HCPT Group to reply with ours - Usually then the "Wombles of Wimbledon"
    and resulting laughter all round says it all.

  6. As a matter of interest, Jerry, a local village is holding a special ceremony on VE Day this year in honour of the sole surviving member of the French Resistance in these parts, now aged 93. The local British contingent is cordially invited and we have been asked to sing God Save the Queen! I was always expressly asked NOT to sing at school!

  7. Greetings Barnaby - Tx for the Marathon sponsorship.

    The French resistance during WWII deserves to be commemorated thoughimho the French National Anthem is far more stirring and fitting a way to commemorate it than our own. Still if they want God Save the Queen you better learn the words. I would struggle after the first couple of lines.

    There used to be a great HCPT helper called Yvonne- half French and half British -and she having been in the French resistance during WWII used to turn up at the start of the HCPT pilgrimages prouidly wearing all her war medals.
    including legion de honor(excuse spelling).

    One time years ago when the HCPT chartered pilgrimage train train went from Boulougne sur mer to Lourdes, the Folkestone ferry from Britain arrived at Boulogne and disgorged 500+ disabled and able bodied pilgrims only for us to find that there was a national French SNCF strike 100% effective going on. It turned out that the local union man had been in Yvonnes WWII resistance group. She marched into his office and remonstrated with him. One could hear the words and didn't need to speak French to understand. After about 90 minutes he strode out of the office into the cab of our couchette train and drove it personally all the way to Lourdes - the only train in the whole of France to travel on that day - quite a powerful woman was Yvonne.

  8. Wow!
    I quite agree about the National Anthem. I WISH we weren't lumbered with such a dirge. Mind you, I'm not much sold on La Marseillaise either. Incredibly bloodthirsty. I think it should be banned by the BBC as an incitement to murder!


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