The Second Ashes Test begins at Lord’s today. England will be hoping to fight back in the series but will need to overcome the dismal weather forecast and the scintillating form of Australia’s leading batsman, Steve Smith. The Aussies can smell blood and some have even been talking of a 5-0 whitewash.
In key moments of the First Test, the team was diffident, hesitant and lacking confidence, a reflection of the national mood. One lesson we can learn from the Australian team is their self-belief and swagger, well-known national traits.
Just as the England cricket team needs to recover its self-confidence, so does the nation. As uncertainty over Brexit has intensified, the sense of pessimism and anxiety has grown. If you sat the UK on the therapists’ couch, post-traumatic stress disorder, or a related condition, would probably be diagnosed.
New Prime Minister Boris Johnson has criticised “the doubters, the doomsters, the gloomsters”, and wants to lead a resurgence of national morale. We should remind ourselves how admired we are in the world. We should take inspiration from the lines of the 18th-century Scottish poet Robert Burns, “Oh, would some Power give us the gift / To see ourselves as others see us!”
American professor Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology, argues that optimism can be learned. Thinking in positive ways makes people happier. The UK has plenty to be confident about — we are the sixth biggest economy in the world and many British businesses have become global success stories. As an illustration, two businesses which turn 100 this year, Tesco and Bentley, are known all over the world. The UK has a proud record of entrepreneurship. More than 600,000 business are started each year. London is also a leading financial centre and our tech sector is growing.
In arts and culture, we are world leaders. London alone has more than 240 theatres while the British Museum and the Tate attract thousands of visitors. Tourism is flourishing, with more than 40 million visits to the UK last year.
We invented almost every major sport and England is the only country to “do the treble” by winning the World Cup in football, cricket and rugby. The Premier League is now broadcast in more countries than there are UN members. Our high-end education sector is world-class. Surveys regularly show the UK has three of the world’s top 10 universities.
We can also boast some institutions, such as the BBC and the monarchy, which have a massive international influence. Several fixed factors, such as the English language and the rule of law, also add to the UK’s global allure.
This country has a lot to be self-confident about. A positive outlook is something we can learn from other countries such as Australia and the US. Together, with our feet on the ground rather than head in the clouds, we need to develop national confidence. Lord’s this week would be a good place to start.
- Zaki Cooper advises leaders on communications and philanthropy