I’ve never been one for patriotism or national pride, because it strikes me that nationality is really just an accident of birth (and birth itself is more often an accident than most people would probably care to admit – even pregnancies which weren’t merely the unwanted side-effects of leisure activities often turn out to be regrettable mistakes in later life: a point to which I’m quite sure my own parents would readily testify).
Nonetheless, people often seem to have an unwarranted affinity for things which they consider to be national institutions, and thus many companies which trade in the UK have seen fit to bolt the word “British” onto their names. Obviously, some of these are or used to be nationalised industries: the British Broadcasting Corporation is still wholly British; British Sky Broadcasting has not long since resisted a hostile Australian takeover bid, and British Leyland is now long defunct.
Of the remainder, a great many appear to be British in name alone. To illustrate my point: British Petroleum has eighty-five subsidiaries in tax havens, British American Tobacco has forty-one subsidiaries in tax havens, The Royal Bank of Scotland (trading under both Royal and the name of a British colony) shelters from tax through one hundred and twenty-one subsidiaries, and Lloyds TSB (which used to be part nationalised and incorporates the Bank of Scotland) has one hundred and thirty-five offshore tax-dodging operations.
From my minimal investigations (because this stuff really does get quite boring pretty fast), British Gas, British Telecom, British Airways, British Nuclear Fuels and British Aerospace do still appear to pay the bulk of their tax in the UK – although, given the tax breaks and public subsidies which some of them receive, I guess that might be hard for them to avoid.
Then there’s the British Transport Police. Obviously, they’re still state-run, and thus in the pockets of the establishment, for nothing else could explain why they haven’t yet made any arrests of our past or present transport ministers, not to mention the directors of many of the privatised train operating companies. Of course, it is possible that I’m misunderstanding their role…
Another company still trading on public loyalties is the National Health Service. That name won’t be able to hold credence for very much longer, though: as privatisation bites, it will no longer be national or focused on health. Nor a service, for that matter.
As for celebrities, don’t even start me on Benjamin Britten or the somehow Swedish Britt Ekland. [And where in the hell is Ekland, anyway?]
By far the worst offender of all, to my mind, was British Home Stores, which wasn’t even based in Britain for tax purposes. Sir Philip Green (presumably knighted for his contribution to avoidance of contributions) nonetheless somehow managed to become a government advisor, despite routing all of his companies through his wife, who is a tax-exile resident in Monaco.
I am of the opinion that, if a body wishes to trade under a national association, then it ought to pay tax in that country. This would at least show some allegiance to the nation which it purports to represent. Which brings me somewhat clunkily to political movements.
First of these which I wish to address is the English Defence League. Pah! Never mind their politics, I’ve seen their placards: most of them can’t even spell or punctuate properly. I think I’d rather leave the defence of English to schoolteachers, thank-you very much.
My particular objection, though, is that the British National Party uses the word British in their name. This is especially wrong, I feel, because it suggests that they are in some way representative of the British people when, in truth, their membership consists almost exclusively of small-minded, unintelligent, minimally-educated, ill-informed and bigoted racists… Oh, hang on a moment, I think I get it now.