During the early 1960s, the most prevalent image in London was of the Union Jack, which found its way onto every kind of accessory, from mugs to badges to shopping bags.
A group of Surbiton typists began it all in December 1967 when they agreed to stay and work an extra half hour a day for free at a firm called Colt Heating. Within days they had become front-page news and many thousands followed their lead – in the face of great opposition from Trade Unions.
The media and establishment picked up their idea. Robert Maxwell took out “Buy British” ads in the papers and people were encouraged to sport T-shirts and badges emblazoned with “I’m Backing Britain” over a union jack.
The Duke of Edinburgh even lent his support saying it was “the most heartening news I’ve heard in 1967”. The campaign was made that much easier because – post devaluation – the pound now bought less overseas.
Tony Hatch and Jackie Trent even penned a song for Bruce Forsyth with the following lyrics:
I’m backing Britain
Yes I’m backing Britain
We’re all backing Britain today
The feeling is growing
So let’s keep it going
The good times are blowing our way
Unfortunately the campaign lost some of its momentum when it was discovered that a batch of T-shirts bearing the “I’m Backing Britain” slogan had been manufactured in Portugal. At home in Britain, the trade unions formally opposed the idea of additional work for no additional pay.
By Easter 1968 the campaign was dead and buried.