Dave Chapelle once said that there's only room for one black comedian and that was Chris Rock before he came along. I'm just using this as an example, but it seems like public attention really only stays glued to one British guy at a time.
Jude Law was that guy from 99-04 with Talented Mr Ripley,
Paul Bettany with his 2 collaborations with Russell Crowe (ABM and M&C) and his career beginning to go solo with Dogville and Wimbledon gave him a run for his money.
Some people were pegging Orlando Bloom a successor in the hype for Elizabethtown and Kingdom of Heaven but he panned out.
Then it was Clive Owen with his GG win in Closer and then going on to star in (I believe) Domino and Children of Men.
Then Daniel Craig with James Bond in Casino Royale and picking up a pretty busy schedule over the next couple years with the sequel and Defiance.
Now it looks like Colin Firth with A Single Man and King's Speech. I originally was curious to know what might have happened if Bettany, Law, and Owen might have even been denied the starring Oscar-bait role for The King's Speech because they weren't hot in the now before finding out that that's exactly what happened. The film's production crew was considering Paul Bettany but the studio vetoed it because he wasn't as much of a star. Theory validated!
This, of course, is absurd. Not that long ago, Bettany had the second largest role in a Best Picture nominee (Master and Commander, 2003), had a prominent role in a Best Picture winner (A Beautiful Mind, 2001), and was tapped to become a star of his own in Wimbledeon. Meanwhile, Colin Firth was pretty much placed in movies to make Hugh Grant look more attractive to ladies (to be fair, this observation was first made on Saturday Night Live).