Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom George Brandis says British diplomats should stop feeling guilty about their imperial history.
Brandis, who is leaving London after four years as High Commissioner, criticised British diplomats who had bought into a narrative of negativity related to Britains colonial past.
He further told the British Foreign Policy Group in London that local diplomats should express more pride in the Queen and the Commonwealth: Britain had “a lot of moral authority in faraway places”.
“One thing that rather bothers me is that there are some in the commentariat, possibly some even in the Foreign Office, who are almost guilty about Britain’s imperial past and therefore think notions like the Commonwealth should be uttered sotto voce.”
“I just wish that the self-lacerating classes in Britain would realise that the world respects their own country a lot more than a lot of them do.”
Brandis beleives that the British monarchy would survive in Australia during his lifetime.
He added that the Prince of Wales would make “a very fine head of state”.
“I wish the self-lacerating classes in Britain would realise that the world respects their own country a lot more than a lot of them do.”
Further, Mr Brandis said Prince Charles would be “a very fine monarch, a very fine head of state of Australia”.
“He loves Australia, and he’s been there 17 times. He has a true emotional connection with Australia. And I’ve found, in this role, his absolutely deeply felt sense of care for Australia was evident, for example from his reaction to the bushfires a couple of years ago.”
Mr Brandis’ term as High Commissioner has covered the negotiation of a free trade agreement with Australia and the announcement of the AUKUS pact on military co-operation.
According to a 2014 YouGov poll, the narrative that British Empire was benevolent and colonialism beneficial to the colonies has been accepted amongst 50 percent of people.
Last year, research published by economist Utsa Patnaik questioned this very narrative that Britain’s empire was based on moral authority and benevolence.
Prof. Patnaik, drawing on nearly two centuries of detailed data on tax and trade, calculated that Britain drained a total of $45 trillion from India during the period 1765 to 1938.
Now the question is: should British diplomats feel proud about their colonial past and plunder or set the story straight for the coming generations?