6 January 2021

After Brexit, we need an Iron Maiden Britain

By Jeremy Driver

There’s an omerta in Britain. Despite five UK number one albums, shifting over 100 million records worldwide and continuing to sell out huge arena tours globally: our cultural elites never talk about Iron Maiden.

This is not a new phenomenon. In 1990, Maiden’s single “Bring Your Daughter… to the Slaughter” topped the UK charts, despite the BBC refusing to play it on Radio 1. At best, our tastemakers have always viewed Iron Maiden as a curio, a guilty pleasure, a fundamentally unserious band.

But popularity among a narrow subset of elites means nothing to the band and the millions around the world who do love them. They are, with the exception perhaps of Metallica, the biggest metal group in the world, a global cultural and commercial phenomenon, with a fanbase that spans continents, cultures and generations. It’s no exaggeration to say Iron Maiden are one of Britain’s greatest and most enduring exports.

In 2021, as Britain takes its first furtive steps into the world after leaving the EU, there’s something to be learnt from this success. As we face the challenge of Brexit and rebuilding the economy after Brexit, the Government should channel the spirit of Iron Maiden and become ‘Iron Maiden Britain’.

But what is Iron Maiden Britain?

Just as you can always tell an Iron Maiden song — Bruce Dickinson’s operatic loud-hailer wail; Steve Harris’ signature galloping bass sound — so too should Iron Maiden Britain be a country that is unembarrassed to be itself.

Iron Maiden Britain has the self-belief necessary to make the ambitious changes needed to make itself wealthier. Iron Maiden Britain builds the houses we need in the places we need them, so its people can become more productive and richer.

Just as Iron Maiden didn’t baulk at writing a 13-minute song inspired by Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner, so too does Iron Maiden Britain take on and quickly complete the vital infrastructure projects we need like HS2, expanding Felixstowe Port and rolling out superfast broadband. Yet Iron Maiden Britain doesn’t stop there: it is endlessly ambitious, looking up to the final frontier of space and, instead of shrugging its shoulders, establishes a Royal Space Agency.

On foreign policy, Iron Maiden Britain believes in itself to be internationalist, but not jingoistic. It knows that, at times, our past had been chequered, but that this is no reason for self-flagellation. Instead, like the band, it understands the power of the union flag as a symbol and believes in the good Britain can bring to the world. Iron Maiden Britain acts where others have shirked by leading the global fight against climate change, using its brand to sell green tech and the importance of taking action.

Iron Maiden Britain knows the incredible store of goodwill our country has around the world and seeks to monetise it. Just as the band are unembarrassed to sell their own branded beer at gigs, so too should we unafraid to sell what people love about Britain, be it Harry Potter; the Premier League or the mythos of a dream holiday to London. Like Iron Maiden we should be doggedly commercial, giving people what they want and expect from us.

Finally, like the band, Iron Maiden Britain shouldn’t focus on pleasing a narrow group of people who often dislike the very idea of Britain. Instead it should deliver for its fanbase, the people of the UK, growing and enriching it.

Leaving the EU is a ‘do or die’ project. Either leaving will provide us with the reset needed for Britain to make the organisational, cultural and economic changes we need to become a 21st century success, or it will hasten our decline. Nothing in politics is inevitable and, as painful as the last few years have been, we have now left. The challenges Brexit throws up are obvious, but we shouldn’t accept slow, numbing decline. By pursuing a pro-growth agenda, inspired by the vibe of Iron Maiden, we can make the 2020s a success.

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Jeremy Driver is a political commentator.

Columns are the author's own opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of CapX.