HAYES IN THE HOUSE: By South Holland and the Deepings MP John Hayes
The latest James Bond blockbuster ‘Spectre’ is topping the charts for cinema attendances across the world. Ian Fleming’s creation has become a truly global phenomenon - a brand that can fill cinemas in places like India that even Hollywood films fail to reach. The Bond series – from the Sean Connery and Roger Moore films of the 60s and 70s through to the latest incarnation, Daniel Craig – is a wonderful reflection of both the expertise of British filmmakers and a welcome reminder of the extended reach of British culture.
Bond is just one example of Britain’s extraordinary success in selling our image abroad. From the Beatles and Rolling Stones to Adele and Coldplay, Britain produces more hit albums than any other country; the English Premier League is the world’s most popular football championship; and the Harry Potter book series is the best-selling in history. Audiences around the world gather to listen to and watch the BBC, a remarkable 160 million people in China watch Downton Abbey, and British clothing labels are desired by shoppers on all continents.
This is not a recent phenomenon, of course; it’s hard to think of an author whose writings have had such an enormous contribution to Western literature as William Shakespeare, and, though written over 400 years ago, his plays are still studied today by school children and performed on the stage the world over.
This cultural influence has wider significance, boosting Britain’s diplomatic clout. According to the annual Portland survey, Britain tops the world rankings for ‘soft power’ – the ability to persuade others through the positive power of attraction rather than the negative force of military might. This survey concurs with others based on international data on global attitudes, which routinely put Britain near or at the top. The value of ‘brand Britain’ is vital as the government strives to sell more high quality British goods and services abroad and seeks to attract foreign investment.
Take education; British universities are universally acknowledged as among the finest on earth. Where once British teenagers dreamt of life in America, now the idea of studying at a British University is a dream that inspires many millions around the world.
That’s not to mention our Royal Family, who are admired and respected internationally, and, of course, our Westminster model of democracy; a system of government which has been emulated by many nations.
Henry Ford once remarked ‘you can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.’ While the European Union spends 3.9 billion Euros annually on self-promotion, the UK’s global image is built on a solid history of achievement. Our global reputation has always been high, but thanks in part to the incredible success of British culture, now it is skyrocketing. As a Bond film it might be titled, ‘From Britain with Love’.