Cool Britannia: Major claims the credit

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The Independent Online
John Major last night painted himself as the architect of Cool Britannia, which rules the pop-music airwaves, has taken over the fashion catwalks of Paris and upstaged Broadway.

Three years ago he evoked a Britain of warm beer, cycling old maids, county cricket grounds and morning mist. But last night, in his speech to the Lord Mayor's banquet, he changed his pitch to a Britain of packed pubs and clubs, streets bustling with tourists and a capital described by Newsweek as "the coolest city on the planet".

Mr Major urged voters to ignore "professional pessimists" and realise how much of a trend-setter Britain had become under his leadership. Having come through "an industrial and economic revolution", it now faced the prospect of becoming one of the world's most successful global trading nations in the 21st century. The only thing it lacked was self-confidence, "the last crucial ingredient for our future success".

There were always people ready to write Britain off, the Prime Minister said.

"They are always wrong. Listening to the political debate, you might sometimes get the impression that confidence is something we don't have as a nation, or even that it's something we can't have."

But if people lifted their eyes above the charmed circle of London-based doom-mongers, they would get an entirely different picture. "The City of London has the greatest concentration of foreign banks in the world. Britain has won more Nobel prizes than any nation except the US . . . Britain has won a third of all Oscars in the last 30 years. Our streets are bustling with foreign tourists.

"Our pubs, clubs and restaurants are packed. Our television programmes are in demand world-wide. Our education system attracts half a million foreign students a year.

"Our theatres give the lead to Broadway. Our pop culture rules the airwaves. Our country has taken over the fashion catwalks of Paris."

Mr Major said it was time to "parade our virtues" as a country, "to show ... how far Britain has come in economic progress and in the quality of our life and culture".