The Brits don’t have the bottle for it, obviously.
But we Kiwis do.
Accordingly we should do what the Cameron Government shied away from doing, which was sell the port of Dover.
We couldn’t sell the port of Dover, let’s be clear.
But we can take a cue from the British, insofar as the idea was to get a nice return from selling the port made famous by Dame Vera Lynn.
And we have lots of ports.
The story of Dover’s sale being scrapped is told here.
Dame Vera Lynn can relax. The white cliffs of Dover, the most famous symbol of Britain’s indomitable wartime spirit, have been saved from the prospect of falling under French control.
The Port of Dover, which has sat at the foot of the cliffs since 1606, will remain forever England after the government scrapped plans to sell it off to the highest bidder rumoured to be the local authority of Calais.
On Thursday thetransport minister Simon Burns bowed to public pressure and withdrew Dover from the auction, saving Europe’s busiest passenger port which handles 13 million passengers and 5m vehicles, including lorries carrying £50bn of goods a year for the nation.
According to The Guardian, the port of Dover had been destined for sale as part of the government’s mass sell-off of trophy assets.
These included the UK’s air traffic control system, the student loans company and the Tote bookmaker.
Desperate stuff, apparently, to help cut the nation’s record £1.1tn debt.
The government had been hoping the port would fetch up to £290m for the Treasury.
So why withdrew this particular item from the privatisation plans?
It seems the scale of local opposition threatened to jeopardise the sale price.
“The secretary of state also noted the strength of local opposition to the proposed sale and that this might create uncertainty about a sale at this time,” Burns said in a letter explaining the decision. “It is uncertain what price would be achieved in the current climate.”
So what sort of opposition was being mounted?
More than 770 people and organisations had made formal representations opposing the sale, and more than 6,500 had signed three separate petitions against the privatisation of one of Britain’s most well-known landmarks.
And a local parish vote showed 97.5% of residents opposed the sale.
The letter said key concerns were “security, immigration and its historic significance”.
In order to avoid the port falling into foreign hands some of the local residents had clubbed together to propose buying it for the community.
More than 12,000 people have bought a £10 share in the People’s Port Trust, which it said would see Dover “owned by people who love our country”. The trust has a string of celebrity supporters including Lynn, who made Dover famous with her second world war song The White Cliffs of Dover.
Neil Wiggins, chairman of the trust, said he was “very, very pleased” with the decision not to sell.
He seems to think this will ensure Dover remains forever England, although Alf’s experience of these things suggests he should not be too confident on that score.
There is always another day.
Anyway, the French have been successful in Ipswich, Glasgow and pockets of central London. Moreover…
A host of British brands have fallen for that Gallic charm or at least cash the latest being Hamleys, which runs the world’s biggest toy shop in Regent Street, London.
Groupe Ludendo has just spent £60m buying the 250-year-old company, which has eight stores in the UK and outlets as far afield as Mumbai in India and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia.
Other luxury brands in London, such as Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen, maker of the Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding dress, are also at least half owned by the French in their case the diversified conglomerate PPR.
Another Paris-based luxury goods group, LVMH, spent £300m chasing off competition from local rival, Pernod Ricard,to secure control of Glenmorangie, one of the best-known single malt scotch whisky producers.
And it is not just companies in the more glamorous parts of the economy that have opted to move ownership to the other side of the Channel. France Telecom, which already owned a stake in UK cable operator NTL, bought the UK mobile phone company Orange from Vodafone in 2000 for an eye-watering £25bn.
And the nuclear power generator British Energy, based in East Kilbride near Glasgow, was bought three years ago for £12.5bn and subsumed into EDF Energy. The combined Anglo-French firm is now the UK’s biggest producer of electricity and together the two companies provide power to a quarter of the country’s population.
Even more humble UK businesses, such as the East Anglia-based pharmaceutical maker, Fisons, have been acquired by the French, in this case Rhône-Poulenc.
But while the French have failed to buy Dover this time around, we might interest them in some of our real estate.
What about Akaroa, where the streets already are named Rue This or Rue that, including Rue The Day?
We would get much more money for Auckland, of course, and whereas the rest of the country might moan about our selling Akaroa, nobody beyond the boundaries of Auckland will give a toss about it being owned by foreigners.
Especially if they promised to take it away.