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War in Europe, rise of populism and geopolitical risk

War in Europe, rise of populism and geopolitical risk


Full transcript from a recording of Rory Stewart speaking at the #Risk2022 conference, Excel Exhibition Centre, London 17 November 2022

I hope this is going to be a little bit of a conversation, not just my talking at you. So, I'll make some initial remarks, and then I'm going to hand over these questions and will get a bit of challenge going back and forth.

But I wanted to begin by trying to map out the world 1989. And, I wanted to begin with a slightly gruesome character. This gruesome character is David Cameron, and I'm sorry to have to raise this character with you. But I think he's a very interesting example of the way the world has changed quite quickly. And I want you to take his life as a way of thinking about how much geopolitics and security have changed in a pretty quick period. David Cameron entered his working political life at the beginning of 1989, the end of 1988. And from 1989 to 2005, which is when he became Conservative Party leader, he lived through this period, for the sake of argument, just for our conversation, I'm gonna call the Cameron period. But we can call it lots of other things too. It's basically the period in which from 1989 to 2005, a vision of the world was absorbed, which defines who we are today. And the ingredients of it are now strangely unfamiliar, but it was the world in which many of us in this room grew up.

1989 was, of course, the end of the Cold War, the fall of the Berlin wall, and ushered in a period of what now seems very extraordinary American Western dominance.

It was a period from 1989 to 2005 when the number of democracies in the world doubled. In fact, if the chart of democratisation had continued on a straight line, almost every country in the world today would be a democracy.

It was an era of extraordinary optimism. And in particular, optimism around the idea that certain Western liberal values, particularly human rights, democracy, free trade, were not just internal to a country, but they were universal values.

Things that would be exported to other countries, partly democratisation. Partly you would have seen it in Bosnia and Kosovo, these humanitarian interventions in the mid-90s - in late 90s, where the United Nations and Bosnia came together reeling from the inability to intervene in Rwanda, the inability to stop the genocide, came in to Bosnia and very, very rapidly and surprisingly were able to drive Bosnian Serb artillery off the hills, save many lives in Sarajevo, de-mobilise the militia,  catch war criminals and send them to The Hague, and by 2000 achieve the situation both near where the crime rates in Bosnia was lower than the crime rate in Sweden.

It's a time also from 89 to 2005, where every single year, there were fewer people in the world living in extreme poverty, and every single year there was less violence. The world was becoming more prosperous and more peaceful. A period, of course, when it seemed plausible to set up the Millennium Development Goals. And you remember the millenniums development goals were about making poverty history. The idea was that by the year 2000, there would be no more extreme poverty in the world. A period also of centrist politics. This is the high tide of Clinton and Tony Blair. It's a time when ideology seems to have faded.

I remember in this period, people in Cumbria, where I later became in MP, saying that doesn't seem to be any political debate anymore. Everybody agrees.  They are all in the centre.  People being nostalgic for the world of the sort of Tony Benn and Enoch Powell, these more extreme figures from seventies 1980s.  Because everything seemed to have become a more cosy consensus.

And it's a period where Britain in particular felt very optimistic. Are we forget from 1870 to 1980? The British economy had been performing very badly compared to the American, French and German economies. One indicator in 1870, the average person in the United Kingdom was 25% wealthier than the average person in the United States. By 1980, the average person in the United States was almost 50% wealthier than the average person in the United Kingdom. So, for 110 years Britain had seen a declining GDP per capita, a declining productivity.

That began to turn around in the 80’s, and that movement was continued under Tony Blair and his chancellor Gordon Brown. So much so that there was a period of uninterrupted GDP for capital growth in Britain, which for the first time in 110 years was outstripping the United States, Germany, France, Japan, Italy and all the major competitors, including a very dramatic increase in productivity in Britain during this.

By 2005, the British economy was still larger than the Chinese economy. But 2005 was the last time that was true. The Chinese economy not very long after this, for many of us this room, is now seven times larger than the British economy, and that has happened very, very, very quickly.

So, 2005, the time when David Cameron becomes Conservative Party leader, is the moment when things begin to plateau. The number of democracies in the world ceases to increase. 2005 is the moment when the surge in Iraq is happening. And Afghanistan is beginning to build into its own search. This is the moment at which the credibility of the United States allies is beginning to become very, very frayed, exposed.  The hypocrisy of the West is beginning to be revealed.

The dreams of the 1990s that a US-led United Nations operation in somewhere like Bosnia, can provide a new model for humanitarian intervention, bringing democracy, human rights, free trade to countries around the world, runs into the sand in Iraq and then Afghanistan.

In 2008 we hit the global financial crisis and it hits Britain particularly hard. Productivity in Britain drops by 8% almost immediately, and the British economy contracts by the largest amount in 40 years. And this fall turns out to be not temporary, but permanent. Britain effectively doesn't recover from this financial crisis. In 2005, incomes remain stagnant from 2008 onwards. From 2008 onwards productivity basically remains stagnant, and instead of performing better than its major competitors, Britain begins to perform worse.

2011, a new big development in the world happens with the Arab Spring. The Arab Spring is, of course, the moment when social media suddenly begins to matter in politics. Really matter.

Because if we'd been having this conversation in 2005, everybody in this room would have said that the countries in the Middle East, North Africa, were very different each from the other. That was nothing in common between Francophone Tunisia, which was an autocracy, and Bahrain, an anglophone monarchy. But that changes with the Arab Spring. Somebody sets himself alight in a medium sized city in Tunisia, and within a few weeks. A revolt is spreading across Egypt, Syria down to Bahrain, and is beginning to inflect Yemen.

Now this is something which doesn't exist in the world before 2005. In fact, David Cameron famously in the lead up to 2010 election asked whether he did, social media said “Only  Tw@ts Do Twitter”.  David Cameron’s quote. Showing how a relatively young person, who was the youngest Prime Minister for 200 years, was already very much behind the curve. And then 2014 happens.

And 2014 is the moment where the age of populism begins. 2014 is the moment at which the Islamic State seized the second largest city in Iraq, so a few hundred ISIS fighters defeat three divisions of the Iraqi army and seizes Mosel. 2014 as the moment of which Narendra Modi becomes the first major populist leader taking power in India. 2014 is the moment which Vladimir Putin forcibly annexes Crimea, and by doing so, redefines international boundaries for the first time since the Second World War in Europe.

And 2014 is of course the moment in which the anti-hero of our story, David Cameron, holds the Scottish referendum. Now, he still is campaigning in the Scottish referendum in an old world. He runs a campaign which is all about a sort of project, fear. He basically tells the Scottish electorate that if they were to vote for independence, they would be worse off financially. It's a very dry, very technocratic campaign run from the centre, and he doesn't yet detect that the world is changing.

The financial crisis of 2008, that social media which is beginning to take off, is beginning to create a new cultural populism, of national identity and a vision which will soon make that form of politics very, very outdated.  And over the next 24 months, and part of this story’s acceleration.   Remember the first period I talked about was 89 to 2005, a 16-year period.  Then I talked about 2005 -2014, so a 9 year period, right.  Now I'm talking about a much, much shorter period - 2014 to 2016. And this is partly a story about technology accelerator.

2014 to 16, populism becomes a global phenomenon. It's in this period that Bolsonaro takes over in Brazil. The Law and Justice Party gets going in Poland. Erdogan takes a lurch very much to the right in Turkey, and of course, most famous people, Donald Trump takes power in the United States and this is the moment of which David Cameron holds the Brexit referendum.

Within that 24-month period, everything that worked for him in the Scottish referendum no longer works in the Brexit referendum because knew forms identity, new forms of politics, new forms of three word slogans, new forms of Facebook enabled campaigns have been unveiled. A new form of politics emerged, whose eventual successor in Britain is this extraordinary figure Boris Johnson and this sort of honking buffoon that comes on like performing circus elephant on to the stage, but is the basic inheritor of all these trends which had been building up over the previous years. And his curious kind of mini me is of course Liz Truss, who is an even more peculiar manifestation of this phenomenon. A phenomenon that has completely taken leave of reality and sets itself off into an economic policy which makes no attempt whatsoever to balance budgets, or think about relationship between taxation, growth and income.

The final stage of the story then, that which I'm going to conclude on, is what happened just under 300 days ago, which is Valadimir Putins invasion of Ukraine and his push for Kiev. And again, a moment that throws everybody off balance. I was in events with Condoleezza Rice and John Sawers, the ex-head of MI6, back in January, where they were confidently assuring looks like this that Putin would never March on Kiev. And why was that?

Well, that's because what I call the soft Cameron era, the 89 - 2005 that formed his political mentality, in that world, it was almost inconceivable that somebody like Putin would do something like that. And the reason it was inconceivable is that we've got ourselves into a world in which we believe that interconnected global trade, particularly in energy and food, made this sort of thing almost inconceivable.

What we didn't understand is the fact that it felt inconceivable to us made it seem very possible to Vladimir Putin.  In other words exactly, the fact that we would have calculated that that action was impossible because it would have been ruinously damaging to the western economies is exactly why he calculated that, moving at a moment in February, the moment where there was a 3% shortage in global energy supply, he calculated that the worst could not afford a vigorous response to his intervention. Because the impact on the western economies would have been catastrophic.

Of course, he was right. Right. The impacts on the western economies have been catastrophic. You do not want to be dealing with your energy bills in Britain at the moment, and boy did not want to be dealing with your energy bills in Italy at the moment. But the reason that George Maloney, a populist leader, has just been elected in Italy is because energy bills are completely out of control. And Europe is really struggling to work out what's good. Energy shortages of course. It has triggered many other things. It’s triggered a rise in interest rates, which has affected many of our mortgages, and it's of course helped to trigger rise in inflation, which is causing something that feels very, very close in Europe now to stagflation, to a recession combined with inflation cycle.

But what we have seen so far is nothing compared to what we will see is see is Xi Jinping then moves into Taiwan. Because Russia's place in the global economy is a rounding error. Now, that sounds like an extreme thing to say when we have just experienced just how dramatic and catastrophic this Russian event is being to our economies and businesses. But it is a rounding error. China is not a rounding error.

50% of the profits of European luxury goods manufacturers, automobile manufacturers, are in China. 50% of the growth of many European companies are in China. China owns between 80 and 85% of the worlds reserves in rare earths. Right. The things that go into our telephones. And Taiwan produces 50% of the world's semiconductors, and 90% of the world's advanced semiconductors.  We cannot begin to model what the impact would be of removing those things.

We’re struggling to think about what happens when there is no Russian gas. We struggle to think about what we do in the absence of Russian and Ukrainian wheat. But to be honest, Russian and Ukrainian wheat does not power lives in a way that semiconductors power our lives. This entire room, this entire building, every object in our pocket is effectively disabled. And advanced semiconductors, which as I say, Taiwan produces 90% of, will cripple very, very important parts of our advanced industries.

So, to conclude. I have begun with this period 1989 to 2005, a time of great Liberal Western confidence where values were being exported around the world. I talked about it beginning to tremble through the Iraq war, the global financial crisis, developed social media. The age of populism kicking in 2014 to 16. And now what we're facing, which is global conflict, which is calling all these things into question. That is the challenge of our age, a very, very different challenge to the challenge that David Cameron felt that he was dealing with as a young person going through the 90s. An age in which our willingness to think about a global world is diminishing.

Our confidence is going in our own democracies, human rights in our own global trading system, in our own free markets and our willingness to export those things to other people.  A world in which our marginal power is diminishing, in which our confidence in ending global poverty or even addressing climate change, is beginning to be eroded through our own economic weakness, in our own inability to solve our own internal problems.  A time when international cooperation is more vital than it has ever been.  More vital than it has been in any period since the end of the Second World War.  And yet where the fundamental institutions that we require for international cooperation - the United Nations, the World Bank, the IMF - have never felt so weak, fractured, marginalised and irrelevant. And in which the challenge for us is to re-discover a sense of hope. A sense of optimism, a sense of how we think about global systems instructions to try to steer us through these challenges. The challenge of global conflict with Russia and potentially China, and how we negotiate the fact that many of the other largest countries in the world are remaining neutral in this dispute, India, for example, not coming with us. And how we apply this to questions of climate change and, of course, in this room. Questions of artificial intelligence. Questions of the total transformation of our labour force, which is likely to happen within the next generation of our lives. Thank you very much indeed.

Questions from the floor

Q:   To what extent, do you think that compulsory voting in those countries that currently are democracies, would fuelling support populism, or do you think it would actually act as a counter to those problems?

A:  I'm very much in favour of compulsory voting.  I am an admirer, actually, of the way in which Australia, which has many, many tendencies towards populism, have navigated itself out of that morass, and that's partly compulsory voting.

I also think we need to change to our electoral system. We need to provide space for new parties to merge. I think the Conservative party, the Labour Party are very sclerotic, very old, very controlled in bizarre ways by their party members. Very rigid. And we need an electoral system which is more open and allows more innovation to come forward. So yes, compulsory voting.

But also I'd like a single transferable vote system, so in Australia, you have the teal independent parties that managed from the last election. It's difficult for that to happen in Britain and it should happen.

Q:  [edited for brevity] You touched on 2014 - one thing that I felt it didn't really draw out was that the populism hasn’t fully formed. It was engineered by particular ideological groups who wanted it to emerge. In an actual fight the Facebook; the extreme radicalization engine driven by Facebook and YouTube zone rooms that can keep giving you what you want more often, and more of it leading people down rabbit holes for living from evermore extreme, ever more echo chamber-like. When the story of 2014 -  aspect – the Cambridge Analytica n data market was actually on the side of the “No” vote and they won.  And they used exactly the same techniques in 2016 to push Brexit vote, and arguably the Trump campaign.  It was a dominoes effect.

A:  So that was a long question and obviously a good question.  Fundamentally it’s a question about the way in which algorithms played into this debate. I'm not gonna get drawn into the pros and cons of independence in Scotland because. We're on different sides of this, but it is certainly true that the algorithms are a very, very strong part of this story.  Any of us who operate actively on social media experiences the extraordinary hit that we get if we make an extreme and provocative comment. And of course, it is training us.

I have half a million Twitter followers. If I send out a tweet saying ‘very interesting article about an English oak tree that I read today’, I get sort of 20 likes. If I send out a tweet saying ‘Boris Johnson should be prosecuted as a criminal in The Hague’, I'll get to 15,000 likes immediately. And I notice when I do podcasts with Alistair Campbell,  and I can see the way in which he is trained by Twitter. Again and again, to make more extreme provocative comments everyday drive up 10, 11, 12,000 likes. Through the manipulation of outrage. And you are right. But I think it happens on both sides.  It isn't an easy story that populism is owned just by nationalists or just by unionists, or just witches, or just by Brexiteers or just by Remainers.

We are all driven into these divisive camps. We follow our own. People feel outraged, and feel really angry with anyone who's on the other side, and it's very difficult to imagine how we get out of this because these algorithms are changing us. They are changing the algorithms of our brain.

Q: [edited for brevity]   I’ve spent most of my working life working for multinational companies and typically in those spaces you have a very different view of interconnectedness between people across borders. You referred to the semiconductor example. If you look at the International Energy, a lot of what's happening today is eminently predictable. And the root out is not. But to what extent to you think education is failing both voters and politicians?  Because the debate in 2016 between, for example, Nigel Farage and encountering reflected the idea that neither of them really understood the details. But they were very good, in one instance in particular, messaging inaccuracies. People listening, the consumers didn't have the basis to be able to challenge that effectively. So how would you propose in an optimistic world we learn more about those interconnected features. Examples you give it shouldn't be used. It should be things everybody knows.

Q:  [edited for brevity]   Touching on the previous question as well, you mentioned that the global organisations like the UN under-resource and unsupported at the moment and heavily doubted by the voice of populism. How do you see this changing? I mean, I saw Gordon Brown raise the need for more support in politics? Where is the main political party raising its voice of more cooperation? how do you see that change?

A:  Two questions. One is this interesting question about the relationship between knowledge and communication in politics.  And the second is about voices for multi-national cooperation.

On the voices for multi-national cooperation, it's very difficult to understand how we get out of this morass because of course it is always more tempting to say, I'm currently running an International Development NGOs, so I'm trying to encourage people to focus on poverty, particularly in Africa. And of course, every time I send out tweet on that, predictably, most of the responses are people saying. We have enough problems at home. Why should we be sending money to people abroad with the contrast? How do you get out of that?

Well, historically, tragically, the only way in which the world ever gets out of it, and understands importance of international cooperation is through extreme crisis and violence.

So the League of Nations is born out of the First World War, the United Nations and other institutions are born out of the Second World War. And until people really understand the cost of these types of conflicts, it's extremely difficult to get people to reboot and understand the importance of international cooperation.  People need to understand the value of peace, and they need to understand the value of prosperity.

On the question of complexity and communication, this is at the heart of the problem of modern politics, and you saw a very good example of this in the leadership debates between Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss. So famously, Liz Truss won the leadership debates against Rishi Sunak. And why does she win the debate? She wins the debates because she sounds very confident, and she makes Rishi Sunak during those debates seem like he is the voice of the BLOB. He's the voice of the Treasury is the voice, he is the civil service is the voice of caution, he is the voice of conventional wisdom.  And she is telling it like it is. She’s kinda clear and radical, and ‘I'm going to create growth’, and ‘ignore this guy’ and ‘I'm going to cut taxes’. Ignore this guy, and here we go.

There is something in communication which likes simplicity, likes clear primary colours, likes certainty, likes confidence. And that's always been true as she in politics, it's getting more extreme now. I'm in a sense the age of populism is just developments of a trend that was there in politics from the beginning.

Is always true that if anyone of you were on the stage debating me, and I was to give this kind of speech to advice, you could always outflank me by saying  ‘ rubbish. You know Rory is being much too complicated, much too pessimistic’, blah blah blah blah blah. ‘The answer is simple. What we need to do is get rid of the immigrants, cut the taxes, get the growth going. Let's go.’  Right?

 So this is a very, very difficult thing to overcome. And it really can only be overcome by us questioning ourselves. We do, and this is related to the question on education. Our population has never been so educated, never been so sophisticated. And particularly younger voters who are incredibly alert to manipulation, and part of the reason why it may be that this phenomenon of algorithms and social media wrecking our politics may not be permanent, is that you get the sense that people in their teens and 20s, are so hyper alert to the ways in which they are being manipulated and screwed with that it may be that the developing mechanisms for filtering some of this stuff out. But that's my most optimistic claim.

Q:  So it's a question about immigration starting in the route. I  chair a body called SOS Sahel, which does Senegal to Djibouti. 250 million people, now 500 million people by 2050 Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso - you know the countries, right? Go East, go to the Horn of Africa. The rain will fail for the 6th time next year, right?  Are we only at the very beginning of the climate refugee process and the scenes we see across Sahara, across Mediterranean. Pope Francis said “Don't turn it into a graveyard.”  My distinct theory is we are at the beginning of these converging systemic risks. Beyond current politics, what does Europe, and the UK as part of Europe, need to do to stop immigration really head of massive risks which are going to unfold over the next few decades?

A:  This is absolutely right.  So if you're looking for one of them as troubled places in the world. This region, the Sahel region – Mali, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso - is probably the most obvious troubled hot spot in the world. People are in the most extreme poverty. Climate change has affected those areas worse than almost anywhere. The average family size in the Niger is 7.2 children, so some of the highest population growth in the world. Very, very difficult to provide for anyone. These are areas where central government is broken down, where Russian mercenaries are rampaging around, where different terrorist groups have seized different bits of territory in large parts of the routes of migration through to the Mediterranean, and Europe.

So this coming together of extreme poverty, climate change, migration, security, terrorism, Sahel is right at the heart of this, and it's a sign of something that is likely to be spreading very, very quickly across many other countries. This is what I talk about with Sahel. But it's also true on the other side of Africa, on the East Coast of Africa. Somalia is now in its 4th year of drought.  Eastern Kenya  [indecipherable].  Terrible.  I was there three weeks ago, all the cattle, you can see rib cages showing, were actually lying dead on the ground.

From California right the way through to Colorado, drought is effecting in 25% of the United States fruits and vegetables.  It’s not just an African story. China had one of the worst droughts on record. The entire Yangtze River basin has been in the drought for about 150 days? You see images of island temples standing in seas of parched dry earth. And this all does connect to one of the reasons why we should be very worried about the direction of our economies because climate change will have a very dramatic negative economic impacts on all these countries at the same time is, paradoxically, as we put up barriers against Immigrants.

We are also removing a lot of the labour force which would otherwise drive growth in our economy. So, economies that refuse to accept immigration from courtries that are affected by climate change are going into a world in which central banks are struggling to work out how to rise raise their interest rates without crippling their economies, are things to be very worried about. But yes, I agree.  Probably the most worrying thing at the moment is Sahel.

And it's deeply disturbing that United Kingdom developed the Sahel strategy in a small way in 2018, that opens new missions in Niger and Chad, that increased our investment in Mauritania, Senegal and Mali. 300 troops into my they put 82 million pounds additional into the region in 2018, has just announced a reversal of almost all of that, the troops leaving, the money’s leaving, and almost certainly they will close the embassies, which is a sign that actually as things get worse, instead of doing more, we do less.

Q:  [edited for brevity]   It's been brilliant to hear a history lesson which gives us information we need to think about for the future, and particularly  the [indecipherable] 1989 [indecipherable] so long lulled in to a sense of complacency and reassurance that when Russian and Ukraine happened, we a; thought the risk was so low. This is a risk conference. So, given what we now and the way the world has gone since 1989, where would you  n a scale of one to ten pitch that unthinkable risk of China invading Taiwan. And what would you say are the things the world needs to do to work and prevent that?

Q:  You referenced the accelerating pace of change. I wonder whether we are approaching a  geopolitical singularity that is becoming harder and harder to really know what is going to happen tomorrow. I heard you minutes ago what you said about you say about immigrants, tax and growth. I never thought I would hear you say that.

A:  I hope you understood I was joking when I said that. That is not certainly not what I believe. So let me deal with this specifically and in more general.

So on the specific question of China and Taiwan.  I think its very, very important to understand that the risk of that is significant. Very difficult to quantify, but I would say if you want a conversation, the chance of seeing Xi Jinping going into Taiwan is perhaps 35%. And it's certainly not a minimal chance.  And why is that? That's because Xi is just being elected for an unprecedented 3rd term. He's been very clear in almost everything that he has said, that he sees in his legacy connected with the reintegration of Taiwan into China.

Enormous investment is going not just into the Chinese military but into the development of a much fiercer nationalistic rhetoric, very alien to the language under Deng Xiaoping in the in the 1980s, where Deng was very, very keen to say that this issue of China and Taiwan was not something for his generation. Very keen to try to reassure the world that this was not an area they wanted go in.

Since then we've seen see fire ranging shots of missiles right over the top of Taiwan to remind them of the incredible missile batteries located on the main coastal China which can do untold damage Taiwan. Taiwan is affectively now no longer possible to defend from the Chinese assault, and this is a particularly dangerous moment because if you were Xi Jinping looking for a time to act, now might seem a good time to act because the West is feeling economically extremely weak, was suffering very, very badly from the impact of the sanctions and counter sanctions against Russia.  Were Xi to invade Taiwan, and politicians to suggest their populations we now need to impose full sanctions and counter sanctions against China, and as I say, the impact on our economies will be many, many multiples more extreme than the impacts of placing sanctions on Russia, Xi see will calculate it will be very difficult for politicians and the public actually bear that kind of cost. We are dependent on China for so much.

Equally, unfortunately, I think Xi underestimates our willingness to do that. We probably will feel forced to impose sanctions and counter-sanctions. Its extremely unlikely United States and its allies will feel that it can allow China to go into Taiwan without some kind of sanctions response. And we'll find ourselves in a spiralling fall which will affect its chances.

So what do we do to avoid it? Very, very cheered up by President Biden’s conversation in Denpasar, Bali with Xi Jinping.  It was a good three-hour conversation. The language coming out of it was much more positive than we have seen for the last couple years. I think Russia's humiliation in Ukraine and the strength of the Western response has probably been quite helpful in signalling to see that he can't take it for granted, that there won’t be an extreme response.

But he does have a lot of domestic issues to worry about it, and he may not wish to take a risk complicating an economic crisis at the moment.

On the question of singularity. I think we are getting into a world of singularity, and part of the point is that as the world becomes more unstable in the UN system collapses, we no longer notice what's happening around the world.  So most people in this room will not have noticed, I guess, that Rwanda is closely connected to the M23 guerrilla group, which is just seized a city 10 miles outside Goma, which is the major capital of Eastern Congo and that Kenya, is just responded by sending 900 Kenyan soldiers in to take the East Congolese side against the M23 this week.  It won't be reported in any of the British newspapers, but it's a very, very dramatic unravelling of security in East Africa happening in front of our eyes.

It's very likely that these things are going to begin accelerating in many other parts of the world that nobody's paying any attention to it all. I think when I'm moving into the last question because I'm going to the end of the session. So I'm gonna let you choose the last question.

Q:  Earlier on you, you referenced actually being able to change something inside the system of government. For the longest time we've been running on the first-past-the-post system. And it has been shown to be flawed throughout the world, like you end up always having two sides almost indefinitely. What do you think the appetite of the British public, and I suppose erase world, raising something that wouldn't leave us with a bipartisan topic.

A:  The only solution to our problems has to be looking at these kinds of structural changes. These changes, the changes we need are not just changes that will just be delivered by a few kind of charismatic individuals winning Nobel Peace Prizes.  They involve rethinking the fundamental structures of our states and societies.  And one of those I think is the structure of our voting system. The problem is unfortunately these kinds of structural constitutional changes are not very glamorous, they not very appealing to voters.

In one of the biggest things we need to do in Britian of course, probably the most important thing we need to do, is invest in making sure that our civil service, for example, in 20 years time, is better than our civil service today. But you don't see any political party campaigning on the question of how you bring thoughtful structural changes to recruiting better people, promoting better people training people, better in the civil service. It's not an exciting subject. Nor is, sadly, electoral reform. In fact, when the Lib Dems push for referendum this issue, we ended up in a situation in  which was rejected. The best hope is that labour will win the next election, but not with the majority, it goes into coalition with the Lib Dems. And then this change in the voting system is brought through. But you're quite right. We must think not about [undecipherable] but we must think whether we're talking about electoral reform, or whether we're talking about reforming the entire structures of the United Nations, the Security Council, international peacekeeping. We must think structurally and constitutionally.

Now, thank you very, very much indeed.


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