It’s weird that we flee from Europe’s embrace for fear of immigrant workers and yet hand over our national assets to overseas governments, however unsavoury they may be.
Lady Thatcher’s Wink foresees an intensification of this process a few years down the line. Most former government services have been delegated to the oppressive company Power4Us, while more and more of our larger industries are managed by foreigners. In this scene the clueless stand-in prime minister Sturgeon Warbytton is on the phone to his chancellor of the exchequer, Lambert Probus, in an attempt to understand how all this has come to pass:
Warbytton reached out his free hand to pat a pile of books, magazines and newspapers on his bedside table.
‘I’ve been doing a little research, Bertie,’ he said, ‘and I do have a few questions, if you don’t mind.’
‘It’s very late.’
‘I’ve never bothered my head much with this kind of thing before, but I’ve discovered that our nuclear industry is run by the North Korean government.’
‘It’s not a trade secret, old man.’
‘The post office, as we used to call it, is in the hands of the Chinese, who also own our oilfields.’
‘Manage them, Sturge. The seabed is ours.’
‘The trusts which run our hospitals have been sold to Saudi Arabia and the blood transfusion service to Qatar.’
‘You have been busy.’
‘Our railways are German, our water resources are Iranian and our national airline has been sold to Indonesia.’
Probus seemed to be speaking to a child.
‘Let me help you join up the dots, Sturge. This is a multi-national world we inhabit. We’re not little Englanders any more. Power4Us can’t run everything, and certainly not the biggest stuff, so we have to buy in from elsewhere. In fact we originally thought of handing air traffic control to the Russians, and recent events suggest we may have to resurrect that plan.’
‘But these are all run by foreign governments, Bertie.’
‘That they’re all state-owned industries. I’m sorry to appear dense, but you did just tell me that they can’t be efficient.’
‘Forgive me – so that’s your little worry! I should have explained that it’s specifically British nationalised enterprises that can’t succeed.’
‘We haven’t got the knack of it?’
‘We’re ideologically opposed to it. Don’t believe in the state getting involved with things that might impact on tax or get in the way of private initiative. Shrink the state! We have our friends to serve, after all. If the state has any purpose at all it’s to look after the money-makers who fund the party.’
‘So we don’t mind if other countries’ governments run things here?’
‘That’s up to them, isn’t it? And let’s face it, some of them are even bigger bastards than Power4Us. They have to dress it up a little for UK consumption, but don’t even begin to ask what corners they cut to come in cheaper than we could ever manage ourselves. It makes good business sense to use them.’
‘And it doesn’t cost us anything?’
‘Of course it does, but nothing much comes out of our current budget. They put up the finance and we give them guarantees that they’ll do very nicely out of it. But that’s all a long time ahead, you see. These are long-term contracts, and people soon forget. We’re happy to let future generations worry their heads about that. Any other questions?’