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Shropshire Star comment: Still plenty to be happy about in Britain

Opinions | Published:

A new report hailing Britain’s influence around the world makes for interesting reading – not least because it highlights a few things that we Brits sometimes take for granted.

According to the latest global index, the UK ranks third in the world’s top 60 ‘soft power’ nations; a concept suggesting states can hold power in their ability to possess influence over others, rather than traditional power such as military force.

So despite years of being mocked by a number of other EU nations over our Brexit travails “brand Britain” has not been tarnished, the report says.

In the report the UK scored highly for its relations with other nations, while the Queen and the royal family were described as being “pivotal” in maintaining the nation’s relevance.

The BBC, oft-maligned in this country, was described as one of Britain’s greatest ‘soft power’ tools, reaching 426 million viewers and listeners abroad every week.

Our influence in the arts and entertainment was also noted, alongside Britain’s rich and proud history.

While readers of this newspaper may well question some of the claims featured in the report, it certainly gives food for thought. In recent years it has been easy to get the impression that this country is in a dire state.

Some commentators have not been shy in announcing that Brexit has ruined everything, feeding the fire of partisan politicians looking to make a name for themselves.

This report suggests otherwise and the question that needs to be asked, is are things really going so well for our European neighbours?

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Germany is in a period of political turmoil, with far-right marches a regular occurrence in some towns and cities and fascist and Islamophobic violence on the rise.

In France the ‘gilets jaunes’ uprising against President Emmanuel Macron has lasted for more than a year, reflecting the deep-seated nature of social unrest across the Channel.

Things are a good deal calmer in Britain where, despite what the naysayers may have us believe, there is still plenty to be happy about.

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For reasons known only to Boris Johnson and his circle of advisers, the Prime Minister has decided against visiting flood-stricken communities in the wake of the recent storms.

Rather than visit regions including the Midlands in recent days, Mr Johnson has instead chosen to remain tucked away in the Foreign Secretary’s Chevening country estate in Kent, where it is safe to assume that water levels are fairly stable.

While Conservative ministers are falling over themselves to insist that their boss is fully engaged in the issue, this is not a good look for a newly-elected Government which has vowed to earn the trust of the whole country.

According to Number 10, the PM is receiving regular updates about the flooding, the response to which is being “rightly” led by Environment Secretary George Eustice.

Yet people will not have forgotten that during the election campaign Mr Johnson descended on a number of flooded towns and villages, and also called an emergency Cobra meeting.

He would be wise to reflect on whether staying away now is the right course of action.

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