Have British men lost their swagger? GQ's Men of the Year awards is one place to find out

The Iraq War conclusively disillusioned many of us as far as the Blair administration was concerned, but Britain's current lack of self-confidence is a different matter

Share

It was Matt Smith, the soon-to-dematerialise Doctor Who, who made one of the most thoughtful contributions to the GQ Men of the Year event, held at London's Royal Opera House on Tuesday night. In presenting an award to Noel Gallagher, he said that the Oasis man had penned the soundtrack to our lives. In particular, he said, Gallagher had captured through his music the spirit of a time when Britain felt more sure of itself, had more of a swagger, and was altogether a happier place. He's right, of course, and more of this later.

This was the 16th staging of the awards evening, and through my connection with the magazine (interest declared), I've attended 15 of them. I've seen Dom Joly banned for life for heckling the winners as they went to the stage, I've seen Elton John and Lily Allen as co-presenters in the equivalent of a showbiz car crash, and I've witnessed all manner of bad behaviour, including my own (I once accidentally smashed the theatre director Stephen Daldry's award, and that isn't the worst of it!). In that time, this event has grown in stature and reach, and this year saw a parade of entertainment royalty, such as Michael Douglas, Ronnie Wood, Samuel L Jackson and, for heaven's sake, Lou Reed. GQ may celebrate the young and vibrant, but the combined age of this venerable quartet comes in at 269.

Well, we've all aged over the lifespan of the awards, and many things have changed around us, and it was this to which Matt Smith was referring. "There was a time," he said, "when we saw the possibilities of New Labour, when we had a bit of swagger, and I think we've lost that." So, if he's right, where did it all go wrong? What, in those 16 years, has changed? Tony Blair came into power in 1997 on a tide of popular support, and with a blank cheque from the British electorate. People were engaged with politics, and believed that our world could be transformed for the better. In fact, the sight of Gallagher being received by Blair at No 10 remains one of the most powerful images of that age. Britannia was cool, and politics, for the first time, had an intersection with rock'n'roll.

The Iraq War conclusively disillusioned many of us as far as the Blair administration was concerned, but what Smith identifies as Britain's current lack of self-confidence is a different matter. The GQ awards - a room full of high-octane egos - may not be the best place to feel an absence of braggadocio, but I also believe that something has been diminished in the nation's self-image. We no longer trust our politicians - and, notwithstanding the expenses scandal, Blair must shoulder a large degree of responsibility for this. The hacking scandal has had the effect of discrediting large sections of the Press. And the police have been exposed in too many scandals to enjoy untrammelled public confidence. In the age of free and open communications, old certainties have been peeled away. We find it hard to have faith in some of the most important institutions in society. No wonder we don't have that swagger any more.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£13000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be part of a ...

Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Technical Support Engineer

£19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT and Telecoms company ar...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

£23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

Recruitment Genius: Developer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
An investor looks at an electronic board showing stock information at a brokerage house in Shanghai  

China has exposed the fatal flaws in our liberal economic order

Ann Pettifor
Jeremy Corbyn addresses over a thousand supporters at Middlesbrough Town Hall on August 18, 2015  

Thank God we have the right-wing press to tell us what a disaster Jeremy Corbyn as PM would be

Mark Steel
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future