Matthew Parris visits Exeter
“A jack of all trades and a master of none” was how journalist Matthew Parris introduced himself to a group of Exeter students on Wednesday 25th October. Nevertheless, the civil servant turned politician turned newspaper columnist was still able to use his wide experience to provoke a fascinating and even controversial discussion and debate in the Rector’s Lodgings. Mr. Parris amazed students with a description of his being groomed for MI6 and his brief spell as a Diesel engineer before entering Parliament. Undoubtedly one of the most engaging issues covered in his speech was his views on Iraq, where he argued that the British government should have diplomatically excused itself from involvement in the war but retained good relations with the USA. Describing himself as a “gamekeeper turned poacher” in the political world, Mr. Parris gave a colourful portrait of his views regarding the current political landscape at Westminster. He argued that the role of Parliament had been in decline for at least a century and therefore could not be blamed upon Tony Blair. Questioned upon the relative merits of New Labour and the Conservatives at the next general election, Mr. Parris gave a scathing description of Gordon Brown as the Wizard of Oz — a celebrated figure who would ultimately disappoint expectation. However, despite remaining a resolute Conservative he also pointed out that Cameronism was “an update as opposed to a U-turn” on traditional Conservatism and had some distance to travel before being able to convince the public. Mr. Parris was also able to adopt a lighter tone when asked about his television appearances and dabbling in the genre of “reality TV,” thus providing a thoroughly enjoyable evening that had something for everyone.