A Letter from Cockaigne in.—Buying British [To The Editor of
the SPECTATOR.] Silf„-:-We are always having rubbed into us the importance of buying British. It is a waste of time With me, because that is a thing I really do understand; Somehow or other it appears to affect the balance of trade, which seems to be the most important question nowadays ; at least, I suppose it is the most important, though what with reparations and the dollar rate of the pound one never quite knows how one stands. Anyhow, I quite see the point of buying British. We export much less than we used to, and these exports have first of all to pay for the food we cannot grow in England, and then-for raw materials without which we cannot manufacture anything to pay for the food. It is clear to me that if we go and import' a lot of foreign stuff besides the food we must have. it means that we have to sell more English goods to other people, who just now, when every country seems to he broke. either do not want them or cannot afford them. That I can grasp easily, but this buying British is not so simple as it sounds.
I have been trying to think what I buy that is not British. I wonder if I can buy British sardines or British capers. I never could afford things like pdte de foiegras or caviare, so they do not trouble me. I could drop sardines and capers quite easily, though I eat so few that I doubt if that would alter the balance of trade. Still, it might help. I do not buy foreign clothes : at least I hope not, but you never can tell. Only yesterday a man told me that in a spasm of economy he bought a suit of clothes in London off the peg, quite a harmless looking affair, and he found afterwards a tab inside the pocket saying it was made in Boston, U.S.A. That is the sort of thing I, never should have expected, and just shows how wary you must be. I believe a lot of people buy foreign boots, but I have never done that. For one thing, no ready-made boot seems to fit me properly ; but it never occurs to most people, who have heard of Northampton and Norwich and other boot places, that there could be any foreign boots in England.
That is one great trouble, but the other is worse. I cannot get English things when I want them. I have always been in favour of encouraging home industries and all that sort of thing, but I find no end of obstacles put in my way. Years .ago I bought a typewriter, and that was American, because I could not find one made in England. The other day I asked for some English bacon, but there was none in the shop. You would have thought with all these pigs about that bacon at least would be plentiful, but apparently there is no English bacon. Besides, the man said Danish was better. All I could: do was to compromise with some from the Irish Free State. I suppose that is buying British all right, though I do not feel quite sure about it. The people I know from Southern Ireland simply hate being called British. Then I wanted some small steel angles to stiffen the legs of a card- table which had become wobbly. I had no end of a hunt to get them, and when I did, they were made in Sweden. The man told me that he sold hundreds of them, but that he could not get them in England. I thought all steel came from Sheffield. Another thing I was told to get was some pudding basins, just the ordinary kind that always seem to run out in December. They were all foreign, and the man told me that he was waiting for a consignment from the Potteries. He said it was odd, because he and a lot of others in the trade wanted no end of things from the Potteries, and yet the factories were only working two days a week. Perhaps this was only said to soothe me, but if it is true something seems to be wrong somewhere.
Then there is the trouble of finding out whether a thing is really British. I asked at a shop for some soap or something, and the wrapper said it was made in England with British labour. That sounds good enough, but I wondered why they wanted to say so much about it, and then the man admitted that the firm was American, but had a factory in England. That makes things very difficult, because I suppose they do not do it for charity, and the profit must be sent in good 'English' money to •.AMerica, and that is just what we do not want. The other day we -had some crackers -for the benefit
of a small nephew. They were just ordinary crackers, made by Toni Jones or someone like that ; but my nephew, who is very keen on this business, showed me in horror a whistle made in Japan. I am sure that Tom Jones is not a Japanese name, but how is one to know?
Why should all the responsibility fall on me ? Why does not the Government, or the Marketing Board or whatever it is, make as much cry about selling British ? It would save no end of lies if-shops were not allowed to sell foreign stuff which could be, or better still is, produced in England in sufficient quantities. If things are as serious as they make out, why not do it properly, and put a thumping licence on shops which want to sell foreign goods ? I should like to paste notices on shop windows saying that this shop sells foreign things. Would it be a libel, I wonder, and if so, what sort of damages would a decent English jury give the shop for a true statement like that ? It would do the trick very effectively, and save no end of trouble. I am certain we should have an enormous balance of trade in about a week.—I am, Sir, &e.,
YOUR CORRESPONDENT IN COCK AICNE.