Soft power? Yes, but tradition trumps pop

December 19, 2013, 10:07 AM GMT+0

Most people agree with Sir John Major's pride in British 'soft power' - but think it is more thanks to the Queen and the english language than One Direction

Speaking to the House of Lords Committee on Soft Power and the UK’s Influence on Tuesday, John Major championed boy band One Direction and singer Adele as “national assets” which give the UK ‘diplomatic clout’. He said that globalisation has decreased the likelihood of large-scale war, lessening the need for ‘hard power’ (coercion) and so opening the door for the soft power of pop stars to increase Britain’s standing simply by giving off a favourable impression that increases trust.

“Adele, One Direction, Susan Boyle. Wherever you go, they’re household names and they have an implication for perception and thus soft power”, he said. Well they may be, but the public say they’re bottom of the list – and far behind the hard power icon that is the British Army.

78% say the Queen has a very or fairly positive impact on Britain’s standing abroad; 73% say the English language; 66% British universities; and 60% the BBC.

But while John Major suggested that pop stars are becoming more of an asset in terms of influence than military force, 59% say the army has a positive influence on how people and governments abroad see Britain while only 31% say the same of One Direction.

John Major’s appreciation of One Direction and Adele may be somewhat more academic than authentic. When appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, he listed works such as Gershwin, Elgar and Diana Ross and the Supremes as his all time favourites.

Image: Getty

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