Dover rallies against French invasion threat

Government sell-off plans could see the tricolour flying over Kent's white cliffs. James Cusick reports

It is a moment for which the people of Calais have waited more than 400 years, since their port was last under English rule.

Now the port of Dover faces being bought up by Calais, its Channel counterpart, creating a conflict which may well become known as Le Stink.

That a corner of England might turn French overnight is due to the Government's imminent privatisation plans, which could mean the port of Dover will be put on the open market. Growing expectation that Calais is the most likely buyer has united the Kent town against the sell-off.

Calais was last under English rule between 1347 and 1558, and its loss caused Mary Tudor to pledge that the word Calais would be found carved upon her heart.

Yesterday, passions were running high again. Before the Sun newspaper had time to rewrite its famous "Hop off, you Frogs" headline, two Labour MPs were gathering petition signatures in the town centre and handing out leaflets.

"Napolean (sic) couldn't capture it," pronounced a Labour leaflet. If any opposition had been around, they could have said in their own leaflet: "Labour can't spell Napoleon."

However, there is little opposition to those who want Dover to retain the trust status it has enjoyed since 1606.

"Hitler couldn't destroy it," said another Labour leaflet headline. Before there was time to mention King John in Dover kneeling before Pandulf to surrender England to Pope Innocent III, a Labour messenger arrived with startling news: "Dame Vera's on board, isn't that wonderful!"

Dame Vera Lynn, whose solo battle charge had John Major running scared over his D-Day party plans, may now be the crucial combatant in the dark days of the privatisation battle.

Dover's mayor and the speaker of the ancient Cinque Ports (of which Dover is one) has already resorted to heavy artillery in his opening volleys. The Queen Mother, in her capacity as Warden of the Cinque Ports, has been contacted. "You will know," wrote George Hood, the mayor, in his letter to Clarence House, "of the long and illustrious history of the port of Dover both in defence of the realm and in providing passage to the continent".

He said yesterday: "We are hoping for a positive response from Her Majesty because as you know she is the Lord Warden and Admiral of the Cinque Ports and Constable of Dover Castle."

It was a busy day for Mr Hood. After fielding inquiries from the local press, he found himself in demand from BBC South East and ITN, and then the French media in the prestigious form of Le Monde .

Did he comment on Le Stink? "No. As a politician all I can say is that I have known the mayor of Calais, Monsieur Jean Bartre for 20 years. And I can understand why they would want to buy Dover to safeguard their own business."

Mr Hood said Calais depended on tourism for 70 per cent of its income. "They live off the strength of their port."

Back in the high street, the Labour team was working hard. Mark Watts, MEP for Kent East, said Labour was united in its opposition to the proposal. Rotterdam, Antwerp and Zeebrugge all remained committed to public ownership, he said. It was therefore unthinkable that Dover should be privatised.

Meanwhile in the town's pubs there was much talk of Winston Churchill, little talk of La Manche, and plenty of talk of Le Stink.

The French are coming...

n The French water company Lyonnaise des Eaux wants to buy Northumbrian Water. It already owns North East Water and the BMI chain of British private hospitals.

n Lyonnaise des Eaux also has a big holding in General Cable, one of the top five cable companies in Britain.

n The transport subsidiary of Compagnie General des Eaux is tipped to take a large stake in South West Trains.

n Onyx, a refuse collection service also owned by Compagnie General des Eaux, won a contract with Brent council in London in 1992.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - 3-4 Month Fixed Contract - £30-£35k pro rata

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a 3-4 month pro rata fi...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £26,000+

£16000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telesales Executive is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager

£25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map