Britain a Wee Bit Defensive About Being Called a "Small Island"

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Sept. 6 2013 3:02 PM

Britain a Wee Bit Defensive About Being Called a "Small Island"

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British Prime Minister David Cameron wants you to know his small island has done some pretty big things.

Photo by Ramil Sitdikov/Host Photo Agency via Getty Images

The British media seem to be engaged a fit of umbrage-taking not seen since the time Mitt Romney dissed London's Olympic preparations over sketchy reports that Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed the country as “just a small island” that “no one pays any attention to.” (Peskov actually might have lifted that line from Romney, who on another occasion called it “just a small island” that “doesn't make things that people in the rest of the world want to buy”.)

Joshua Keating Joshua Keating

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

In any event, Peskov denies making the remark but that didn’t stop David Cameron from launching into full-scale defending-the-motherland mode at a press conference today:

"Britain is an island that has helped to clear the European continent of fascism and was resolute in doing that throughout the Second World War.

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"Britain is an island that helped to abolish slavery, that has invented most of the things worth inventing, including every sport currently played around the world, that still today is responsible for art, literature and music that delights the entire world.

"We are very proud of everything we do as a small island—a small island that has the sixth-largest economy, the fourth best-funded military, some of the most effective diplomats, the proudest history, one of the best records for art and literature and contribution to philosophy and world civilisation."

He added: "For the people who live in Northern Ireland, I should say we are not just an island we are a collection of islands. I don't want anyone in Shetland or Orkney to feel left out by this."

Later in the day, Cameron returned to the theme, quoting Shakespeare and  pointing out that Britain had bequeathed the Beatles, Elgar, and One Direction onto the world. The response is already being described as Cameron’s Love Actually moment. 

Somehow, this did all start as a debate over Syria.

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