The Telegraph: Letters – Britain may be a small island, but its ‘soft power’ is unrivalled globally


SIR – David Blair paints an incomplete picture of Britain’s profile overseas (, September 6). Our international influence has far more to it than the Government’s spending on defence, aid, and diplomacy alone.
Britain’s “soft power” – the power of attraction rather than coercion – comes from our people, institutions and icons, as well as our Government.

Our language, our world-class education system, and our strength in arts, sports, music and drama all attract people to visit, study and live in Britain. They build trust, friendship and relationships, including trading relationships. The British Council’s research has shown that people who have a cultural interaction with Britain, especially through education, are far more likely to do business with it.

The Government already supports businesses and creative entrepreneurs in seeking out opportunities overseas. But its support for museums, universities, theatres, galleries, sporting institutions, the BBC and creative industries is vital for our global standing, as is teaching the next generation to be better at foreign languages. David Blair may classify this as “domestic” spending, but it shapes much British potential in the world.

A survey from the Institute for Government recently placed Britain at the top of the global table for “soft power”. Just last week Ipsos Mori placed London as the number two global city (number one in Europe). In tough times we need to look out as a nation, not in. We need to see the big picture, not feel small.

John Worne
The British Council
London SW1