Business secretary Vince Cable has promised to strengthen takeover rules following Pfizer's attempt to buy AstraZeneca. But foreigners are increasingly in control of everything from Premier League football to political party strategy
Jaguar, Tetley and Corus steel. Great British companies? Not really. The prime minister may be driven around in a Jag, but the car firm, along with Tetley and Corus, is run by Ratan Tata, the Indian chairman of Tata Motors. Jaguar has prospered under foreign ownership. Sales are up by 100,000 vehicles to almost 360,000 – 80% of them overseas. And with greater sales has come continued investment in UK plants and jobs. That, however, is not necessarily the norm with a foreign takeover.
When Cadbury's was taken over by the American confectionery giant Kraft in a £12bn deal in 2010, it promised to keep its Somerdale factory in Somerset open. Just a week after the purchase, Cadbury's new American owners lamented that, in fact, Somerdale would need to close after all. Market forces, you see.
The debate about foreign takeovers has been stoked again by Pfizer's unsuccessful attempt to buy AstraZeneca, the British-based pharmaceutical group, for nearly £70bn. Following the outcry over the possible deal, and the fear of UK job losses, the business secretary, Vince Cable, promised to strengthen Britain's takeover rules, to make it harder for international bidders to renege on promises made during a deal. The government will consult on the changes, and new laws are set to be introduced before the general election in 2015.
In the 1980s, the Americans arrived. Margaret Thatcher deregulated the City and Merrill Lynch, Chase Manhattan and Lehman Brothers, to name a few, snapped up ancient institutions, replacing the clubby atmosphere of the Square Mile with the rapacious, bonus-grabbing culture that has dominated the financial centre ever since. An influx of capital to London ensured it pulled clear of continental rivals as the place for the big beasts of the financial services sector to do business. When the sub-prime mortgage model went bust in the US, though, Lehman Brothers went bankrupt. Merrill Lynch, AIG, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, HBOS, Royal Bank of Scotland, Bradford & Bingley, Fortis, Hypo and Alliance & Leicester all came within a whisker of doing so, and had to be rescued. America's problems hit nowhere harder than London.
"We know a little of the history at City and while we want to bring in the best players in the world, we also want to see the academy continue to develop talent and want to give Mark Hughes [the manager] the chance to bring homegrown players into the team," said Sheik Mansour, a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family, on the day the family purchased Manchester City football club five years ago.
Eighteen months later, Hughes, a former Welsh international, was sacked. City made it through to the last 16 of the Champions League last season, for the first time in their history, only to play an 11 against CSKA Moscow that didn't contain a single English, or home nation, player.
Across the Premier League, the proportion of homegrown players has dropped to around a third, while 11 out of 20 Premier League clubs have foreign owners.
Talking to a House of Lords select committee last year, the chief executive of the Premier League, Richard Scudamore, insisted that were no grounds for concern about the domestic league.
"There is a huge association with it being quintessentially English," Scudamore said. "The overseas owners and players buy into that. They are buying something very authentic, something that has been there since 1888. David Cameron talks about Britain being open for business. If this country does business overseas, these people have to be able to do business here."
When the Tories unveiled Jim Messina, the electoral strategist behind Barack Obama's victories, as their new star consultant, many a Labour nose was put out of joint. "We'll have someone similar soon enough," insisted a senior Ed Miliband aide. This spring the British political career of David Axelrod, known as 'the Axe', another of Obama's strategists, was launched on a reported six-figure salary.
Yet, if pay is any indicator of value, it is Lynton Crosby (centre right), the Australian who masterminded four consecutive national election victories for John Howard, the former Australian prime minister, who will decide the 2015 election in Britain as David Cameron's top political problem solver - on a salary of £500,000. It is said that Cameron's recent cabinet reshuffle was actually a Crosby operation. His genius, it is also said, is in ousting unpopular ministers.
All this may go to prove that there's a dearth of British talent in the world of strategy, but is there something about a foreign accent that suggests infinite knowledge and wisdom? Remember straining to find hidden meaning in Sven-Göran Eriksson's (bottom right) take on his England team's performances. "First half good, second half not so good," he sagely pronounced, justifying every penny of his £3m after-tax pay packet.
Three years ago, it was revealed that of the 62 apartments sold at One Hyde Park – the world's most expensive residential block, pictured above - just nine had been registered for council tax. The foreign owners assumed that such a levy wasn't for them. Nearly half (25) of the flats had companies in the British Virgin Islands as their registered owners. Other offshore tax havens used to purchase the properties include Guernsey, the Cayman Islands, Liechtenstein and Liberia.
One Hyde Park, built by the Candy brothers, is just the most extreme example of this trend in London. Wealthy foreign investors, seeking a safe berth for their cash, have been stoking a property boom, driving up prices and locking millions of UK citizens out of the housing market. A recent report from the thinktank Civitas, entitled Finding Shelter, cites statistics showing that 85% of prime London property purchases in 2012 were made with overseas money. Estate agent Savills found that last year £7bn of international money was spent on "high-end" London homes. Two-thirds of homes bought by people from overseas were purchased not for owner-occupation, but as investments.
An Englishman's word is his bond. David Cameron confirmed last week that he will play tennis with the wife of a former ally of Vladimir Putin, after the Conservatives said they will keep a £160,000 donation raised by auctioning the game.
The prime minister rejected calls to pay back the cash – from Lubov Chernukhin, the wife of a former member of president Putin's government during the early part of the last decade.
Cameron said that, given recent events in Ukraine, he could not possibly accept money from a "Putin crony", but fortunately Mrs Chernukhin's husband, Vladimir ,"certainly wasn't that". Chernukhin had bid for a tennis match with Cameron and Boris Johnson, the London mayor, at fundraising dinner, and the outcome of the auction had to be respected, Tory officials insisted.
Johnson was less adamant - though it appears that he has now relented under pressure from Downing Street. "I know about this tennis match," he said. "They volunteered me to play tennis with some geezer, and it's very, very important that full checks are carried out to ensure this is not someone who is an intimate of Putin or a crony, and we are doing that at the moment."
• This story was amended on 27 July. The Cadbury deal was worth £12bn, not £1.8bn as we stated