And now: the Euro Census
In those days Caesar Barosso issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Brown was governor of Britannia.) And everyone went to his own town to register.
Stifled by the ineradicable bindweed of ‘ever closer union’, the next census of the United Kingdom will have a distinct EU dimension, for it will be a Euro-census ‘harmonised’ throughout the entire Union, with all 27 member states poking their bloated noses into Cranmer’s (and everyone else’s) personal affairs. No longer will they ask different questions at different times, but Brussels is intent on a unified Euro-census. While this would need approval of each member state, the plans have already been approved by members of the committee on civil liberties, justice and home affairs at the European Parliament.
The 2001 census inquired, for the first time, into one’s religious adherence, and many respondents were sufficiently irritated by this invasion of privacy that they either refused to answer or stated their religion as ‘Jedi Knight’. As a consequence, there are now 390,000 declared adherents to this faith in the UK, which is more than declared for either Judaism or Sikhism. This number should have triggered a formal option box in the 2011 census, but the harmonisation process offers the British Government a way out of this embarrassing categorisation. This is more than a little irritating to Cranmer.
And what sorts of probing questions may one look forward to?
There is to be the usual focus on how people live, including education, occupation, hours worked, and marital status, which usually contributes to the formulation of matters like housing policy. But it is not clear why this needs to be centralised in Brussels. The data requested would include ethnicity, literacy, size and type of family, religion, and will delves into areas like computer literacy, number of cars owned, cooking facilities and ‘durable consumer goods possessed by the household’.
People are asked to declare alongside their marital status whether they are in a homosexual civil partnership. Thankfully, plans for enquiry into what actually happens between the sheets have been dropped, but for how long? It is reported that the EU had intended to enquire the ‘date(s) of the beginning of consensual union(s) of women having ever been in a consensual union: first consensual union and current consensual union’.
Cranmer can hardly wait for the Government to misplace the sex lives of the entire population of the UK. That indeed would be worth a fortune in the wrong hands.
As the census becomes pages longer with each passing decade, there are pertinent questions to be asked about the extent to which the state is increasingly interfering in everyday life. Not only does there remain the likely introduction of compulsory ID cards, but council tax revaluation and HIPs include powers for state inspectors to enter and examine every home. Big Brother may not yet be a camera in every household, but he is certainly a database probing into people's property and lifestyles.
Questions on illness go much further than in 2001, and demand details of learning difficulties or psychological conditions. A raft of questions on ethnicity includes more detailed sub-categories than before. For example, boxes require people to say whether they are specifically Arab or a 'Gypsy/Romany/Irish Traveller'. After protests in 2001, ‘White English' is now counted as an ethnic group, after the previous census permitted one to be Scottish or Irish but not English or Welsh.
Religious questions seek details of the main minority faiths, but all Christians are once again grouped together. There is to be no further enquiry into how the faith which commands the loyalty of 70% of the population is constituted. This is a missed opportunity for all denominations.
The sadness is that a national census relies on public goodwill to paint a comprehensive and accurate picture of the nation. Yet this Labour government have not only shown themselves to be untrustworthy with sensitive data; they are further eroding the public goodwill by being ever more intrusive. And the more intrusive the enquiries become, the more likely is it that they will elicit false returns or evasion. Certainly, anything that may link census questions to taxation is bound to encourage evasion.
And anything that enquires into personal matters of faith is only likely to boost the professed adherents of Jedi philosophy or that of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. And in true ecumenical fashion and with sincere expression of spiritual goodwill, Cranmer greets and exhorts the disciples of both, and prays that your flocks may multiply, and your borders be enlarged.