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Panel To Modernize Britain’s Image

April 1, 1998

LONDON (AP) _ It’s not hip to be square, Britain has decided.

Foreign Secretary Robin Cook lined up a 33-member panel Wednesday that includes a young fashion designer as well as batch of not-so-young bureaucrats and businessmen and charged them with modernizing Britain’s image.

``The picture many have of us is out-of-date,″ Cook said, announcing ``Panel 2000″ in the Foreign Office’s Lucarno Room, an ornate masterpiece of Victorian design.

``Some see us as no more than a relic of our past _ a theme park of castles and villages,″ Cook said. ``All too often our innovativeness and creativity in IT (information technology), design, business ... is insufficiently widely recognized.″

Since winning power 11 months ago, Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Labor Party has sought to rebrand Britain as high-tech, multicultural and modern _ as opposed to prone to pomp and pageantry.

Think tanks, Web sites, design awards, ``Cool Britannia″ slogans, big plans for the millennium _ and now Panel 2000 _ are all part of the drive.

Douglas Hurd, one of Cook’s predecessors in the Conservative Party government, has called it a ``silly phase.″

Members of Panel 2000 included designer Stella McCartney, daughter of Paul McCartney, and Sir Colin Marshall, the head of British Airways.

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