Blair urged to update Britain's image abroad

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Catching the nation's introspective mood, Demos today publishes proposals for giving Great Britain a new image of itself fit for a new century.

The think tank's paper, sponsored by the Design Council, urges Tony Blair to lead the "rebranding" of Britain's identity, emphasising openness, non-conformity and creativity. Margaret Thatcher's efforts at national re-creation were too nostalgic and too nationalist. Heritage should not be forgotten but Britain's military and imperial past should be laid to rest. The monarch should undertake a series of visits to places - such as China, Iran, Ireland and the Caribbean - where there is still bitterness about Britain's past, apologising and "healing".

Practical suggestions offered by Demos - its director Geoff Mulgan now a member of the No 10 policy unit - include offering visitors coming off planes and ferries "morsels" of the new British cuisine.

Heathrow and the Port of Dover should be overhauled to provide visitors to Britain with a "stunning welcome".

British embassies should get rid of their Chippendale furniture, titled diplomats and general stuffiness. Government agencies and business should promote the country as an innovative hub open to all-comers.

Britain, the report says, "will never again be a superpower or an empire. But its position as a major industrial and political power has stabilised. It can never be a `young country' in a literal sense, but is bursting with the energy and excitement that young countries enjoy."

A renaissance of British pride built on sense of Britain as an entrepot would help exports and increase tourism revenues.

The report's author, Mark Leonard, says Britain suffers from the misperceptions of foreigners. Tourists think the food is bad and the natives arrogant. Foreign firms fail to rate the creativity and success of British companies. British people themselves are too wedded to out of date stereotypes and the Government's efforts to sell Britain abroad consist too often of cardboard cut-outs of Beefeaters.

New brand image, page 11

Leading article, page 14