On Wednesday, I helped preside at the ceremony to confer British citizenship. There were applicants from around the world choosing to settle here in Darlington. It was a solemn, dignified affair (with everyone standing for the National Anthem at the end), slightly alleviated by the wonderful young children there.
The civic party was made up of the Mayor, the High Sheriff of Durham, the Chief Executive and myself. Speaking at very formal events such as this aren't really in my make-up, so I'd prepared a short speech, cribbed in part from a template of the ceremony I'd been sent. Inevitably, the Registrar used most of that text in her introduction, so I had to wing it with something simple and informal, which seemed to go down ok.
Together, the applicants made a series of pledges and affirmations, and then came up to collect a certificate from the Mayor and shake her hand.
Annoyingly, the photographer booked for the event hadn't turned up. Some people had brought friends with them armed with a digital camera, but several others had no way of recording the event.
In the light of the current debate, it was instructive that afterwards those citizens without a camera were very keen for me to take pictures of them with the Mayor. That got me thinking. Would they have been so keen to have a snap of them with a Council Chairperson, for example? I don't think so. Mayors are a commonly-recognised and respected institution, and carry real gravitas as a result.
In another small way, it indicated to me what we all stand to lose should the Borough vote "Yes" on September 27th.