The Unique Nature of British Diplomacy
Britain has a rich, long tradition of diplomacy. British diplomacy has evolved over time from its heyday of the British Empire, to its consistent rebranding and repositioning of the UK’s priorities e in this post-colonial world. Britain has a very unique position in the world- as its part of the G8, G20, the P5 Security Council (SC), The United Nations (UN), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the European Union (EU) and the Commonwealth; as well as being a Nuclear State. By its membership of these organisations, it gives the UK an opportunity to influence the most important decisions affecting the world. By having that power, it allows the UK to be able to punch above its weight in this new world; and use different avenues to try and reach the outcome that her people would be satisfied with.
But the UK also wields significant soft power across the world. The best diplomat and most recognised figure is the Queen. What Her Majesty and the Royal family are able to do is open up new avenues and borders across the world, especially in Monarchical countries in the Middle East. The Royal family is recognised as the most famous head of state; and the UK are able to use Her Majesty’s family’s role to great effect across the world. Another important tool wielding power is the BBC World Service. It is world-renowned as an impartial broadcast network, where it reaches over 260 million people across the world each week. It has been very effective in its broadcasts across the globe, and reaches out to countries where foreign broadcasts are either banned or highly restricted. It is allowed into places where other broadcasts are not, because of its reputation. In recent years, this form of soft power diplomacy has been under threat, as the Foreign Office have stopped funding the World Service; and its long-term funding is in danger. Supporters such as Robin Brown see this as one of the major successes of UK Diplomacy as it is so respected and revered across the world.
Culture is another big part of Britain’s soft power diplomacy. This has been rebranded as John Major’s countryside and Cricket of the UK, to the late 90’s, when Cool Britannia ruled. This was based on Britpop in music, British bulldog, and those satire shows which the UK is unique for; to the more recent GREAT Campaign, which condensed with the Olympics. Also within the realm of culture, the UK is benefitting from another hidden rebrand- which is a revolution of the creative industry in the UK. There have been big music artists such as Adele, One Direction and Sam Smith; big blockbuster movies such as James Bond, and such TV shows as Pop Idol, and X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing, and shows such as Top Gear, and drama shows such as Downturn Abbey and Dr Who. There have also been other such comedy, artistic and cookery shows. What has occurred in the last decade is a big shift in how British soft power is presented, which has blended the old with the traditional such as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics to this more modern Britain- which is seen as fun, quirky and exciting.
Of course, there are critics to this style of diplomacy. The UK is viewed internationally as a falling power, and is merely holding on to these positions through historical links, rather then actual meaningful power. Through austerity, there is a visible decline in their presence. The UK’s diplomatic ability has been weakened through the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; its reputation has taken a knock. Also within Europe, Britain has never taken a serious role in helping to develop the European Project.; and more recently, it has been flirting with leaving the Union. This has left the UK in a precarious position vis-a-vis its neighbours. Other critics would point out that nation branding actually does not work. People such as Simon Anholt would argue that the reputation of a country is very hard to change. He recently pointed out that the Olympics had no impact on Britain’s reputation in the world, despite heavy investment in using the GREAT Brand in the run-up to the Games.
To conclude, I feel Britain has successfully rebranded and repositioned itself in the world. It has taken time, but the UK understands that their strength is using soft power which is effective and credible. There are difficulties with the negotiation in Europe to come, and the future direction of the UK; however, at this present moment, the Unique Nature of British Diplomacy is working.
BBC World News (2014) BBC’s global news audiences increase to record 265m http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/latestnews/2014/global-news-audience-265m
Writer .S (2014) Rule Britannia! Britain still second strongest, ‘global power’ in the world, says study http://www.trendingcentral.com/rule-britannia-britain-still-second-strongest-global-power-world-says-study/
Creative Industry (2014) WHY CHOOSE UK TV & FILM? http://www.thecreativeindustries.co.uk/industries/tv-film/tv-film-why-the-uk
Creative Industry (2014) USA AND CHINA SALES BOOST TV EXPORTS http://www.thecreativeindustries.co.uk/industries/tv-film/tv-film-why-the-uk
Public DIplomacy Networks and Influence (2011) Was There a Cool Britannia Campaign? https://pdnetworks.wordpress.com/2011/05/06/was-there-a-cool-britannia-campaign/
Telegraph Staff (2012) Government’s worldwide advertising campaign to boost London 2012 Olympics tourism rolled out (The inside and outside of a New York subway train will be wrapped in the Union Jack flag as part of a campaign aimed at encouraging tourism to London in 2012.) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/olympics/9073752/Governments-worldwide-advertising-campaign-to-boost-London-2012-Olympics-tourism-rolled-out.html
Anholt. S (2012) The Risks of Hosting a Successful Olympics http://rendezvous.blogs.nytimes.com/category/nation-branding/