We want our country back

Next edition of Salisbury Review out September 7th

I had always thought that Gracie Fields’ great wartime song, ‘Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye,’ was written with the departing troops in mind, but it was actually sung by Gracie Fields in the 1939 film ‘Shipyard Sally’ to accompany her departure from Glasgow to present a petition from the men of the Clyde to the owners in London who wanted to close their shipyards.

The film opens with Queen Mary launching The Queen Mary to the tune of ‘Rule Britannia’ and closes with Gracie Fields singing ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ superimposed on ships sliding down the slipways. Some memorable lines:

Sally (to the men): Why you boys are the greatest shipbuilders in the world. Britain owes you a lot, and you ought to remind her of it.

Sally (to the owner at a ball in London on being asked to leave): I promised the boys I would leave their petition with you. Maybe the writing on it isn’t so good but just remember that every man there has given part of his heart and soul to the industry. They’ve been loyal to their country and their country should be loyal to them.

It all makes for wonderful nostalgia, but it is history too – our history. Thank God we could build the ships in 1939.

Well, we have lost most of the shipyards and now we are about to lose what is left of the steel industry. But though the world has moved on, my guess is that the steel workers of Scunthorpe are every bit as loyal as those Clydebank shipbuilders. They deserve better.

I notice that Greg Clark, the business secretary who was unable to lift a finger to save British Steel, studied economics and gained his PhD for a thesis entitled ‘The effectiveness of incentive payment systems: an empirical test of individualism as a boundary condition’. After addressing this crucial issue, he worked as a business consultant for Boston Consulting Group, the American management consultancy which popularised the ‘growth-share matrix’. This portfolio management tool enables firms to move cash around by breaking down products into four categories – dogs, cash cows, stars, and ‘question marks’ – and thereby maximise returns.

In other words, Clark is just the sort of person to deliver the value-free open borders global markets agenda of the Conservative Party – or to put it another way, the deindustrialisation of Britain. Last week at a Telegraph event in London, a panel of five ‘rising stars’ of the Conservative Party, four of them potential leadership contenders (Raab, Hancock, Truss and Cleverly), extolled the virtues of free enterprise, markets, entrepreneurship and capitalism for all. But their brand of free markets did for the men of Scunthorpe.

Brexit wasn’t a cry for global capitalism any more than it was a cry for state socialism. It was a cry from decent people who want to do an honest day’s work for a living wage, and to live in a place they can call home. Its message was ‘We want our country back’.  

Never mind the Conservative leadership election. National Populism seems more attractive with each passing day.    

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17 Comments on We want our country back

  1. ‘To feel much for others and little for ourselves, to restrain our selfishness … is the perfection of human nature…’ Adam Smith, often quoted and traduced as the advocate of selfishness. Free markets and free trade depend upon people not cheating one another through cartels or currency rigging and so on. hence Smith, a stern Scottish moralist, proposing that we imagine a disinterested observer looking over us before whom we would feel no shame.
    Tricky business deciding the right course in the face of low-priced competition. The ship-building on the Clyde was inefficient and slow: the Americans assembled sections quickly and cheaply flat on the ground and fitted them together. There’s a case for keeping some business in house and not being dependent on imports from places that might turn against us in the future. Steel might be one such, though nothing even may’s governments has done matches the Merkel stupidity of handing their energy supplies to Putin.

    • Meanwhile the Korean ship-building industry shows us how to do it.,just as the Japanese showed us how to build cars. We never learn, and out-dated Union practices with politically led strikes finished us off.

      • All of which raises the question – who can fix the party and the country?
        General George Patton comes to mind – he’d soon knock Tory whiners into shape and he had the correct negotiating approach to Europe. He was sure he’d be reincarnated again having had a role in the Battle of Marathon, so he’s probably around somewhere.
        Was he more deluded than the present line-up or less? Discuss.

    • My grandfather learned to be a naval architect in Glasgow and in Clyde shipbuilders. Lack of work forced him to Blohm and Voss in Hamburg where he learned welding leaving in August 1939.
      He then took that knowledge to Henry Kaiser in San Francisco and did indeed build Victory ships on the beach.
      He was horrified by the loss of shipbuilding in the 60s here and would probably have supported the Scunthorpe steelworkers. It needs investment, quality products and protection from Chinese dumping.
      Competition should be tough but fair, and British workers can do the job.

      • Yes, but an ideological attachment to free markets has driven out common sense. No market is ever free once players enter it who are big enough to push competition aside. Ideological hammer-headedness in not consistent with Conservatism. I blame the IEA, the provisional wing of Toryism, who even want a free market in cannabis (presumably with the taxpayer picking up the mental health bill).

  2. Our feminised cultural elite find heavy industry to be rather distasteful (black satanic mills and all that) but they do like to take a nostalgic view when the ugly means of production are firmly and safely in the past. Let other nations be on the cutting edge of innovation and production – we prefer to be on the cutting edge of consumer choice. We prefer to buy in technology from other more innovative nations – congratulating ourselves on our shrewd choices. Our managerial class even prefer to buy in highly skilled workers rather than take the trouble to train mere locals.

    Where is this great nation, desperate to break free of EU restrictions and trade with the world? Broken by petty minded socialists and grasping money-grubbers.

    • To be fair, the contempt for technical and manufacturing skills goes back a long way. Aristotle warned that although the elite needed to know a little about agriculture and even lyre playing, they must on no account become proficient. The grammar schools, despite the myth that they gave the talented (whatever shape it was) fair chances, also reinforced the mind/manual split.
      As you say, there’s no hope of the political class doing anything about it.

      • To be fair, economics is a manual art, albeit a hands-free one, inasmuch as it reduces man to appetite and goods. The dominance of economics is not proof of an old mind/manual split; it is proof that mind has flown out the window. If anyone understood that country is the first thing and all goods flow from it, that would be Aristotle.

        • There are many sorts of economics – but the approach that attracts me, and would knock some sense into our rulers, is that of Adam Smith. He was keenly aware of the need for benevolence, fairness and decency to retrain our self-interests – though self-interest was a necessary driver of prosperity.

          As for Aristotle, care is needed. He assumed that city states had an optimum number of citizens and that population growth needed to be checked – through infanticide and abortion. He was right that family structure matched state structure – but patriarchal both in his case maybe our present uncertainty about family and sex relationships is partly why we have chaos in the UK government.

          • The path to feebleness was well lit and is easy to review. It followed upon overweening pride, and exhaustion from empire, and is much worse than either pride or empire. People think what they’ve got now is a finer justice, but it’s not true. When you get feeble and self-loathing like that the chaos of the jungle crowds in.

            As for Aristotle, I think you’re remembering him wrong. In a polity a man can find his place and enjoy his nature. It is distinctly that form of organisation where the articulations of the good rise up to meet the variety of human natures. He says the polity is a category beyond tribe, and not based on blood, still you need it to be small enough that all men worry about their reputations and act accordingly. I think that great Englishman Hobbes says much the same thing, just with a lot of fraudulent venom against his teacher Aristotle.

  3. Mr Miller, you are so right. I worked in the defence industry for over a decade, all the workers, if asked, would say they worked for The Army, Navy or Air Force, and were aware that some of the work they did would both defend the realm and save the lives of our soldiers.
    Under Blair new management was introduced, along with Public Private Partnership. In theory this allowed greater capital investment in the business, and improved understanding into which other markets,
    the products of research, development, and invention could be sold. In practice it made a small number of senior management very, very rich, made large numbers of scientists and engineers redundant, and reduced our military capability.
    Most notable was the increase in salary of the Chief Executive post which went from £200,000 in 2000 to £2,000,000 in a decade, in the same time period the work force was halved, and the ability to do useful, innovative scientific, and engineering work reduced to nearly nothing. Enthusiasm for invention was actively discouraged (I suspect Barnes Wallis would have been sacked!), and there was much talk of revenue streams, monetising IP, performance management, and organic growth (whatever that was).

    • Trenchant insight, Raven. You must be in despair at witnessing how rapidly your country has sunk.
      At least in Japan they have managed to hold back the destructive forces of “Anglo-Saxon” economics – altho’ “Neutron Jack”‘s books continue to be translated into Japanese – executive salaries are still only a relatively small multiple of assembly line workers, and the civil service still sees itself as working for the good of the country. Outsourcing JDF procurement to the private sector would be unthinkable.

      PPP is just an excuse for chancers to enrich themselves and shaft their enemies at the expense of the public purse.

      • Interestingly, Cameron once proposed that companies should not get public contracts where the pay ration exceeded 20/1 – something like the range in Thatcher’s day, and when marginal tax rates were higher than now. (Plato suggested a 5/1 wealth ration, that old socialist.)
        Excesses do more to recruit support for leftist ideologues in my opinion than anything such as Corbyn could do for themselves.

      • Sheilagh, apologies I have been without internet in lovely Caithness.
        Yes, it is a horrible thing to watch the greedy take over every large organisation, with the honourable exception of The Army. I read about a foundry in The Black Country which employed around 200 people, and went through a lean period, their MD called the employees together and told them that their choices were, a percentage reduction in the workforce, or that everyone (including him) would work a four day week (with the corresponding pay cut), the employees voted overwhelmingly for that latter, the company has now returned to full time work, and is doing well. It is impossible to imagine any CEO of a FTSE100 company showing the same level of dignity, solidarity, leadership, and self-sacrifice as that MD.
        Large organisations from hospitals,and the civil service, to those weird organisations with names that leave one unsure of what they actually do (Accenture, BAe systems, Carillion, Persimmon etc.) produce goods in spite of the senior management, rather than because of it. Often the management of these organisations helps ‘shape’ the policy of the EU so that the trading/business rules support them, and inhibit smaller competitors. The hope for the future of the United Kingdom lies with the majority who voted for Brexit, and are still fighting to stop this cabal of the overpaid, over-indulged and self-entitled.
        Raven

  4. For our country to be what it once was, a number of things need to occur: a)More devolution of power to Scotland and Wales to snuff out murmurs of independence b)High Tories in the Government’s cabinet c)Expanding the constitutional rights of the Monarchy d)A rigorous, point-based immigration system e)Smaller government f)British values taught in schools e.g. National Anthem g)Revoke the House of Lords Act 1999 h) Lower taxes and further incentives for British businesses i) Big multinationals taking on bigger CSR’s regionally j) Conservation of the countryside! and maintenance of the urban and built up environments

  5. Gaurav (having used up all the reply indents) … you put things so poetically it seems churlish to argue, but I’m not sure anyone thinks of empire these days. We are all born in infancy with no memory and only a slight capacity to learn.

    Hobbes is a great thinker. He’s often regarded as an old cynic who put the force of law or monarchy above all else, but he does point out that unless the people have ‘contentments’ force alone will not be enough That ought to be the Tory Party’s guide, but has not been of late.

    I particularly enjoy quoting Hobbes on America (where he had knowledge and investments). He says his famous ‘nasty brutish short’ situation probably only ever applied there among the tribes – whose brutality to one another shocked even the brutal Elizabethans. Adam Smith remarks on New World horrors too. It’s a good riposte to phoney apologetic lefties who try to make out us brits went about spoiling Gardens of Eden wherever we landed.

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