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19th October 2007 Edward Anderson

A Brief Tour of World Politics

On Wednesday 17th October, Exeter College was delighted to welcome back academic and writer Timothy Garton Ash to his alma mater.

Straddling the worlds of journalism and academe — or, quoting Conor Cruise O’Brien, having ‘one foot in each grave’ — Dr Garton Ash managed to squeeze ‘Brown, Britain, and the rest of the world’ into a modest speech of just 15 minutes. With roughly five minutes for each section, Dr Garton Ash joked, ‘our prime minister would think it appropriate.’

Some of the key issues in his wide-ranging talk included The War on Terror, Britain’s role in Europe, and the so‒called ‘Chinese renaissance’. But, as if these were not enough, Dr Garton Ash also responded dextrously to an extremely tough set of questions from the audience.

Topics ranged from poverty in Africa and the political legitimacy of Gordon Brown to — an easy little matter to end on — the role of religion in the Middle East peace process.

Despite the heavy nature of the issues he covered, Dr Garton Ash was a charming and extremely amusing speaker. Highlights include an anecdote about seeing Gordon Brown with Dr Henry Kissinger and Larry Summers — ‘[Brown] spoke like a nervous grad student’, a guide to Britain’s options in Europe ‘reduced Shakespeare’‒style, and the amusing comparison of the Blair-Bush relationship to Jeeves and Wooster — or, as Dr Garton Ash added, ‘Alfred to Batman’.

Dr Garton Ash, who read Modern History at Exeter, is the author of eight books of political writing, including “The History of the Present” and “Free World”. He has also travelled extensively in Europe, Asia, and the Americas, listing on his website that he lives ‘mainly in Oxford, though also in Stanford and airplanes’. A syndicated columnist in The Guardian, a regular contributor to The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, he has been named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

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