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.


Author: Alistair Miller. 

First published in The Salisbury Review: https://www.salisburyreview.com/articles/we-want-our-country-back/.

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