Letter to the Editor The Financial Times
April 20, 2017
Sir, I was surprised to see Janan Ganesh (“Forget empire — Britain wants less of the world, not more”, April 11) urge readers to forget about empire. While he is correct to suggest that imperial nostalgia did little to mobilise the Leave vote last June, he is surely wide of the mark when he argues that Britain’s imperial past is of little significance in the here and now.
As Brexit Britain feverishly tries to rebrand itself as Global Britain we would do well to think seriously about what this new moniker actually means. In today’s political climate more history, not less, should be the clarion call from the FT’s political columnist.
Sometimes potential takes a while to get noticed. It certainly appears to be the case with Schwarzman Scholars, a graduate scholarship aimed at strengthening ties between East and West. When I first wrote about Schwarzman Scholars for the St Andrews Foreign Affairs Review in October 2013, I was struck by the general paucity of media coverage attending its early progress. And it was a most curious thing. Both the scheme and its namesake, Stephen A. Schwarzman, are not exactly subjects that deserve glossing over. With a stated ambition of becoming the Rhodes of the twenty-first century, Schwarzman Scholars is a timely and forward-thinking initiative, launched by one of the world’s most high-profile business magnates.
Watching Washington squabble over the rightful size of the US federal government during the last year has required patience and understanding. From the sidelines, it’s hard not to be discouraged. The government shutdown in October last year makes Hunter S. Thompson’s wicked take on US political culture in Fear and Loathing on The Campaign Trail ’72 look positively fantastic.
Helensburgh, like so many small Scottish towns, conveys a sense of calm: viewed from the vantage point of the locals friendly golf club the picture is quintessentially Scottish with views over Loch Lomond and the Clyde providing a dramatic backdrop from which to enjoy the setting. Yet shuffle down the road a mere six miles and the image blurs beyond recognition. Rather than lochs and peaks, you’re more likely to find nuclear submarines and barbed wire. For it is here, nestled away in an otherwise idyllic corner of Scotland’s west coast, that the UK’s sole nuclear weapons base, HMNB Clyde, calls home.
“The Oxford system”, noted Cecil Rhodes, “in its most finished form looks very unpractical, yet, wherever you turn your eye … an Oxford man is at the top of the tree”.
Like any shrewd businessman, Mr. Rhodes turned this insight into something tangible. Explicitly outlined in his will is the template for what is currently the most distinguished international scholarship: the Rhodes Scholarship. In brief, it is an initiative that ensures the world’s most talented, driven graduates have the opportunity to study at Oxford and climb this tree.
The aphorism ‘your reputation precedes you’ is unlikely to be popular among the Chinese Patent Office staff. For an organisation tasked with preserving innovation, the fact that Chinese industry is more associated with piracy and theft must be disheartening, or at least dispiriting.