Her Britannic Majesty


“Her Britannic Majesty’s Secretary of State Requests and Requires in the Name of Her Majesty all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance and to afford the bearer such assistance and protection as may be necessary”.

This fantastically theatrical and pompous sentiment is the first impression made by our British passports on diplomats, border guards and government officials the world over (and, as in the illustration, it’s on the front cover not exactly hidden away in the small print). It’s a wonderfully anachronistic reminder of the days when any of us Brits could expect the government to send a gunboat to prise us out of any trouble we might have got ourselves into. Either that or James Bond . . . but be sure Johnny foreigner, ‘you certainly couldn’t mess with us Brits and expect to get away with it’. It’s amazing really that more of us are not marched away for routine ‘internal examinations’.

These days of course British military might and our intelligence services are not quite at superpower levels. But looking at two very sad events over in the last six months (the disappearance of Madeleine McCann and the more recent tragic murder of English student Meredith Kercher), there is a current British force that should strike fear into any foreign government or criminal and that’s our media. I’m not sure we get protection from them yet, but there is no doubt that they carry huge power beyond our own shores.

British tabloids are justifiably world famous/infamous for their sensational approach, but the UK’s fortunate position in the middle of the world’s time-zones, the fact that it is home to the headquarters of so many international news organisations (far more non-domestic than New York), the global success of the BBC and the ubiquity of the English language online, means that what were once domestic stories get covered and picked-up globally. Madeleine McCann is a household name around the world and with the daily diet of leaks from lawyers and police in Italy, the Meredith Kercher case may be heading that way too. And that kind of publicity puts both cases high up the ‘to-do’ lists of law enforcement in Portugal and Italy.

Perhaps our passports should threaten a full-scale press invasion rather than hark back to our imperial past.

Categories Technology

4 thoughts on “Her Britannic Majesty

  1. Given the Royal Navy’s fiasco in Iranian waters – globally broadcast – I grant you HM’s “requests and requires” will not get you very far…

    Brand Britain has lost its fear-factor (more Beckham glamour these days than Bulldog grit), but it is wildly optimistic surely to think anyone cocking a snook – do people still do that? – at the British government, that enforces your passport rights, will care much what some fey, British hack has to opine on the matter.

    As we pass the Litvinenko anniversary – is it only one year? seems like an age – we are reminded that press ire at home only makes those still at home feel cross and has no geo-political impact at all.


  2. Not sure you are right on that Stephen. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the coverage of the Litvinenko affair, the effect was disasterous for the nation’s image. And as we both know, that has an impact on all sorts of things (pricing for IPOs included).

    My point about the UK media was not entirely serious in terms of it really being a replacement for the old gun-boats, but to say the red-tops don’t have an affect abroad is also wrong . . . and you and I both know that people there were very piqued by the coverage Russia has received at their hands. Mud does stick and if you think it does not……you need to find a new job mate.


  3. I think if you strip out the bullish oil-related IPOs, and the pricing since 8th August (when the global credit crunch hit the markets) I guess, having removed both overly-bullish and overly-cautious IPOs, one could prove that.

    If you do, interestingly, you will find Russia’s IPO pricing is a mixed bag and it tells us very little 😦

    Well-understood companies sold at the top-of-the-pricing-range, while ones which left corporate awareness marketing to the last minute occasionally suffered – which is a great sell for financial communications, begun early, BTW.

    Evidence is ambivalent as to whether Russian equities have an ‘image discount’, but to be fair it is hard to make a comparison. People who invest in Big Oil invest in places much less pretty than Russia’s emerging-if-managed (TM) democracy, so are pretty robust on PR issues (and I also suspect that a lot of ‘foreign investment’ in Russian IPOs is actually *Russian* investment anyway, re-cycled through the BVI and Channel Islands).

    The BBC frequently makes the Putinisti angry (actually most everything British does right now) and the one they really hate to have make sideswipes at them is CNN. Ted Turner and his early 1990s crew did such an extraordinary job at making it geopolitical boradcaster of record…

    It will be interesting to see how Russian state organs react to western liberal media coverage of this weekend’s forthcoming landslide-victory of President Putin’s party.

    Thanks for the career advice, but we’re still hoping the winter snow will cover up the mud…


  4. Stephen,
    I am no apologist for liberal western media’s coverage of Russia or many other countries (I lived in Asia for seven years remember and struggled to recognise much of what was said of places I was living) but the fact is Russian business is very worried about how Russia is perceived becuase they know they have to work and pay to get over the trust deficit (whether in private deals or on the market). Much of it may as you point out be demonising, but it is real and the UK media plays a big part in it. Anyhow . . . . . what happened to the snow we saw when I came through? All gone?


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