"British jobs for British workers!" thundered Gordon Brown, as he emerged from the shadow of Tony Blair to become prime minister.
His populist sloganeering has now come back to bite him.
Across Britain, thousands laid down tools in wildcat strikes in solidarity with a walkout from a French-owned oil refinery in North Killinghome -- to protest a $300 million contract to an Italian company that plans to bring in 400 Italian and Portuguese workers to fulfill it.
As Brown pleaded from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that Britain must not retreat into "protectionism," strikes spread to Scotland, Wales and Ulster.
Britain's commitment to let foreigners buy up its utilities and industries and bring in foreign workers to run them has backfired. Brown's own Labor Party is now angrily demanding that he live up to his pledge: British jobs for British workers.
"The Return of Economic Nationalism," wails the alarmed cover of The Economist. And understandably so.
For the stimulus bills of both Houses have a "Buy American" provision mandating that in "public works" only U.S. iron, steel and manufactures be used. The provision came out of the appropriations committee of the House on a 55-to-0 vote.
The Senate watered it down by declaring the Buy American provision must be consistent with all U.S. trade commitments. But Congress is sending a message: The rebuilding of America is to be a project of, by and for Americans, not outsourced. Sen. McCain's free-trade amendment, to strip all Buy American provisions from the bill, was routed 65 to 31
The reaction of Barack Obama, a NAFTA skeptic in 2008 with bumper stickers that read, "Buy American, Vote Obama," was to genuflect to the gods of globalism and recant his economic patriotism.
"I think it would be a mistake ... at a time when worldwide trade is declining, for the United States to start sending a message that somehow we're just looking out after ourselves," he told Fox News. We don't want to "trigger a trade war," he told ABC.
Apparently, Obama was unnerved by rumbles from Europe, which is threatening to drag us before a World Trade Organization tribunal and have "Buy American" banished forever.