Soft Power And The UK

The recent G8 conference in Northern Ireland struck me as a bigger anachronism than ever before. The assembled ranks of rictus grins, and the even more awkward adoption of smart-casual, reinforced the point. It’s an irrelevant 1970s old boys’ club.

The developing powerhouses of international economies and influence were conspicuous by their absence. For a cabal to assemble and ignore China and India is folly.

I looked at the old guard of international politics and thought about what Britain really has to offer.

If the answer is not power on the high seas anymore, who is there to fight? It’s not manufacturing; neither is the answer an amoral financial services sector. The city will face ever-growing competition.

What we do have is much more subtle, more elegant and, to my mind, more interesting. The term “soft power” was coined by Joseph Nye in 1990 – and rather wonderfully we are packed full of the stuff. That ability to attract and co-opt as a means of persuasion is something we should embrace and delight in.

Thanks to the Olympics and Paralympics last year, the eyes of the world turned once again toward London – and we shone. We could show off our wonderful city and country, and be proud of our cultural heritage and history, without it being mawkish, offensive or derivative.

And it is not just by looking back to what we once did. Present-day Britain has so much more to admire: world-class music, contemporary art, media outlets, innovation in science, avant-garde fashion … you get the idea. Today it is very exciting.

At the heart of it all is a buoyant and continually evolving creative sector. Employing 1.5 million people, London is where international businesses look to when they want ideas, inspiration and direction.

Having lived and worked overseas, I have seen the respect and admiration that British creativity receives. Yet, is it promoted and supported to a proportional level that a £36 billion industry should be? Not really.

Time marches on, and we need to make the most of modern Britain; foster the strength of the soft power we wield, and use it to excite international partners, draw in investment, create jobs and, in a very un-British way, enjoy the fact that we are good at something.

Adam Proops is the business development director at gyro London.

Follow him @adamproops and @gyrolondonloves