Britain was an Empire, and had to learn how to exercise its immense influence and talents without actually ruling the Commonwealth countries.
The United Kingdom has become part of my blood ever since in 1968, I went to Cambridge University to study English with a fellow student, Francine Godet who, through the romantic colleges and sites, became my wife of over forty years.
I lived twice in London, the first time as a Managing Director of Morgan Stanley and the second time as the President of Kidder Peabody Europe. Working in the City is a unique experience that the rest of the world envies but cannot be replicated.
A superb but elitist culture
- It is, the only country in the world that does continue to have a worldwide vision. There is a reason why the Financial Times, the Economist and the BBC are the most sophisticated media in the world.
- Arts in Britain is entrepreneurial, exploratory, creative and, yet, superbly grounded into a wonderful setting of traditional architecture and Universities. I am addict of the Covent Garden Opera and the Royal Festival Hall but also to the innovative British artistic scene.
Britain has often not been able to communicate its superb capabilities have not and its exceptional talents have often been undermined by the arrogance of the British Elite. From Eton to Oxford, the “old boys’ network” continues to rule the country with the Royal Family and its aristocracy integrated into a unique blend of talents.
This unique culture has indeed become an obstacle to its expansion. A natural complacency has left Britain behind the United States in a number of ways. Yes “Britain and the United States are divided by a common language” says George Bernard Shaw. But the US language is action oriented and performance driven. Other values play in Britain that made its universities lose their international leadership to Harvard. Columbia University is a brainchild of Kings’ College (hence the crown of its logo). At the core of it, British leadership took its world dominance for granted.
Britain, Europe, the US and the world
Britain is badly needed both in Europe and in the world. It would be a disaster to lose Britain in Europe and the current referendum prepared by the Cameron Government for 2017 will be a key test. Hopefully the French anathemas will not dominate the absolute commitment of Germany to the United Kingdom. Britain has a lot to offer, and gain, from the European Union, should it not take it half-halfheartedly.
Without a deep understanding of the United States history, it is impossible to understand why, in a sense, the United States are a scion of Britain. The British presence in the US and the American presence in the United Kingdom are reinforcing every day the extraordinary bond between the two countries. For those of us who feel at home in both countries, it is a blessing and we know that it is the combination of the US dynamism and the UK sophistication that is a perfect combination for world leadership.
The City of London
London is a unique city, and so is the City of London. It vibrates, communicates globally, enjoys arts and sophistication and continues to produce unique products and services to the world. The City of London is the most international in the world. In a flexible environment, but a strict regulatory framework, it managed to rally the world. The Bank of England is probably the best central bank in the world.
The London Stock Exchange was built on international and domestic companies but lost the battle to the New York Stock Exchange by a lack of vision of its leadership. Its aura remains very special indeed. Working with the executives of the exchange was sometimes tough, but always fair.