Selling the crown jewels

Image of Tyler Brûlé

If you’re a resident of the UK, a frequent visitor to London, or one of those Hanseatic Anglophiles who’d love nothing more than owning a pied-à-terre in Mayfair and a quaint cottage in the Cotswolds but are terrified by the poor state of Britain’s infrastructure, then I have some good news.

After last week’s reports that suggested that some of England’s police services should be privatised (including certain investigations and even beat patrols), I’ve decided to embrace this latest round of outsourcing and abdication of responsibility, and will shortly mount a bid to take over the Department for Transport. As the current UK government has made it abundantly clear that it’s not interested in maintaining the most basic of services that are expected of a semi-functional state, the next obvious step is to turn all ministries over to the private sector.

Although this is an appalling admission of defeat, the only alternative is to do away with democratic process and let the UK go to the highest bidder. As this has already happened in many corners of the country, better to get the ministries auctioned off as swiftly as possible so national debt can be paid down and possibly more dynamic groups can get on with running the country.

The key issue is whether the UK will still be a country or little more than a brand that’s owned by a consortium of investors. Since Brand Britain is already a well-used term among this nation’s diplomats and salespeople, it shouldn’t be too much trouble to sell the concept.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office will attract a host of bidders – mostly from the hotel sector – and will likely be turned into luxury flats and a hotel.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport will be broken up with various parts being sold off to Live Nation and the Qataris.

The Ministry of Defence’s responsibilities will be handed over to a network of security firms, with national defence becoming the responsibility of a new consortium of ex-Heathrow security staff (they will all be sacked when I take over the ministry) and overseas missions will be covered by a special crowd-sourcing initiative managed by

And the Department of Health will see a tough fight by the big global pharma companies but eventually Boots will come out victorious.

As for the other departments and ministries, it’s pretty easy to figure out who’ll end up owning what:

The Ministry of Justice will be bought by the producers of Judge Judy in the US. All courthouses will be wired to broadcast live around the clock and will make sponsorship deals with legal firms for airtime.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change will be sold off to the Norwegians. Statoil will take over all exploration activities and also have a monopoly on energy supply.

The Scotland Office will also be bought by the Norwegians.

The Department for Education will be sold off to the language firm EF as they already teach so many children better English than many state schools do. Prime assets like Oxford and Cambridge will only exist on iPad and faculties will offer up lectures from home. Campuses will be sold off to housing developers and libraries will end up as landfill.

The Department for Communities and Local Government will be wound down as local government will cease to exist as all municipal functions are privatised. Michael Bloomberg will start using his London residence more when he snatches up a network of UK towns and cities to manage.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills will become redundant as everything will already be in the private sector.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will simply be known as the Department of Snacks and Drinks and will also take the form of a consortium run by PepsiCo, McDonald’s and Tesco.

If all of this sounds absurd, it is. What’s worrying is that nonsensical proposals such as handing over policing to private firms can get as far as the tender process.

This column recently argued in favour of the state playing a role in running some national airlines and there needs to be a more vigorous debate on how tax money is deployed.

On Tuesday, I had lunch with the editor of a respected German newsweekly and discussed the state of Brand Britain. Over a plate of rare roast beef and bratkartoffeln we touched on the sorry state of the UK’s basic services, the rather late push to launch a “Made in Britain” initiative and the loss of knowledge in maritime technology. We concluded that it’s important to have a policy of making things and there’s no shame in being a manufacturer of sprockets in rural Bavaria.

Tyler Brûlé is editor-in-chief of Monocle magazine

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