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Selling England by the pound

From The Publican

By Hamish Champ , 01-Mar-2008

With pub and brewing sectors contracting under the weight of recent corporate activity there's been much beating of chests over what some see as the country's national heritage being sold down the river. In particular, rivers leading to overseas buyers.

Along with everything else, the blame for Great British Names being snapped up by any old Tomas, Dirk or Hermes is being laid at the door of the 'shower in power', New Labour.

We should have protectionist policies in place, patriots argue, to prevent the likes of Scottish & Newcastle from falling into foreign hands. Other countries have them, so why not us?

Sadly for those guardians of all things British we live in 'enlightened' economic times, in which cash - or equity or, when you can get it, debt - is king.

What I find ironic is that many advocating protectionism would, if pushed, place their political affinities to the right of the centre, where the exponents of free market forces traditionally reside. I always thought illiberal economic policies were the preserve of the 'economically illiterate' Left.

Then again, the political landscape has been turned on its head in recent years, what with Labour privatising chunks of the NHS and the Tories highlighting the plight of the poor. Alice In Wonderland or what?!

Back in the early eighties, as the privatisation of state-owned assets gathered pace, I recall Tory grandee and former Prime Minister Harold MacMillan giving Margaret Thatcher a ticking off for, in his words, "selling the family silver".

Many regard Thatcher's legacy as that of radically reforming a once-moribund UK economy, though I suspect few in traditional manufacturing industries, not to mention the miners, would agree. And then, of course, there were those 'choice-enhancing' Beer Orders.

So if you must seek an architect of the current carpet-bagging, I'd start with her…

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