The U.K. may be sailing into an uncertain future outside the European Union, but if campaigners have their way, Britannia will rule the waves again.
A Conservative lawmaker and the Daily Telegraph newspaper are proposing to recommission the royal yacht Britannia , former berth of Queen Elizabeth II, and send it around the world as a floating trade mission.
The yacht was retired in 1997, and is now a tourist attraction moored in Edinburgh.
Legislator Jake Berry says it should either be brought back into service or a new yacht should be built as “a small floating embassy” for Britain.
“I think it would be a huge beacon of hope for our country,” Berry said yesterday [Macau time].
Berry says the vessel could help bring in “billions of pounds’ worth of trade deals.” Anticipating that some will label his idea a vanity project, he says it should be funded by donations, rather than taxpayers.
Former Foreign Secretary William Hague has backed Berry’s proposal, saying that when he was in government he found that no one, however wealthy or powerful, could resist an invitation onto the royal yacht.
“Leaving the EU means we need to communicate the advantages and attractions of our country more than ever,” Hague wrote in the Telegraph. “That will take a lot more than a yacht, but we need all the reach and profile that we can get.”
Others, however, said bringing back a symbol of empire and monarchy would send the wrong signals about Britain to the world.
“Britannia was always a wisp of denial because, essentially, she sailed through imperial decline,” wrote columnist Tanya Gold this week in the Guardian newspaper. “Her power was cosmetic. She floated on nostalgia.”
Launched in 1953, Britannia was the last in three centuries of royal yachts, a floating monument to a nation that built an empire on naval power — an empire it was then in the process of losing.
The 412-foot (123-meter) yacht, with its teak deck and brass fittings, traveled more than 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) as transport for royal visits and vacations, a reception venue for dignitaries and the honeymoon vessel for royal couples including Prince Charles and Princess Diana.
Her final voyage was to collect the last British governor from Hong Kong when the former British colony returned to China in 1997.
The government of then-Prime Minister Tony Blair decided the cost of replacing Britannia was too high. The royal family, whose popularity was then at a low after a series of scandals, acquiesced — though the queen wiped away tears at the decommissioning ceremony.
Berry has secured a House of Commons debate on the yacht on Oct. 11, though his plan is unlikely to become a reality without government support.
Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May has not backed the idea, though when asked about it she said she recognized Britain’s “proud heritage” as a trading nation.
Berry — who supported the losing “remain” side in Britain’s EU membership referendum — said his proposal was in tune with May’s calls to make the best of Britain’s EU exit.
“We can’t rerun the referendum,” he said. “People on all sides of the political debate, whatever side they were on in the referendum, have to come forward with innovative ideas to make Brexit a success.” Jill Lawless, AP, London
New film shows how The Beatles helped fight segregation
Music aside, the true power of The Beatles wasn’t the volume of their fans or the popularity of their hairstyles — it was the pull of their politics.
The band’s refusal to play to segregated American audiences in 1964 is one striking example explored in a new documentary about the band’s tireless years on the road in the 1960s before Beatlemania forced them to stop performing live.
Director Ron Howard mined archival footage to reveal the Fab Four’s shock at being asked to perform for a separated crowd for the film “The Beatles: Eight Days A Week — The Touring Years .”
The movie is now out in theaters in the United States and the U.K.
“We were kind of quite intelligent guys, looking at the political scene and, coming from Liverpool, we played with black bands and black people in the audience. It didn’t matter to us,” McCartney said.
“We played Jacksonville [Florida] and we heard that the whites and the blacks were going to be segregated and we just went, ‘Whoa, no. No way,’” he said. “And we actually forced them then, which is very early on in the 60’s, to integrate. We actually even put [it] in the contract.”
McCartney and Ringo Starr reflected on their impact and the band’s overwhelming success during an interview this week in Studio Two at Abbey Road Studio, where The Beatles recorded their catalog.
“When we first of all came in that door, as young kids […] we weren’t even allowed up in the control room,” McCartney said. “That was for the grown-ups. So we grew up here.”
“We all thought, ‘Wow, we can make a record,’” Starr said. “That was the biggest deal in life at the time. And we kept coming back and we made some really great music.”
The movie focuses on the years The Beatles played live from June 1962 until August 1966, which saw them performing 815 times in 15 countries.
Eventually the uncontrollable, hysterical crowds of Beatlemania made touring impossible.
“It’s funny to say how it felt because it was so crazy,” McCartney said. “We wanted to be famous. We wanted to do well. We were doing what we really wanted to achieve and it was getting better and better.”
“But it got out of hand and the story is that, in the end, it kind of forced us off the road so we had to come back to this studio and make ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,’” he said.
Those who saw The Beatles live probably didn’t hear them sound systems at the time couldn’t outplay screaming fans.
The movie features remastered music so audiences can actually hear the performances. A companion album, “The Beatles: Live At The Hollywood Bowl,” has also been released.
Now, the guys on stage can finally listen to what they were playing. Hilary Fox, AP