The Great Coming Apart? Coronavirus and Its Impact on Our International Outlook

EVENT TRANSCRIPT: The Great Coming Apart Coronavirus and its impact on our international outlook

DATE: 14 April, 5:00 pm – 6:00 pm

VENUE: Online

SPEAKERS: Nick Timothy, Gisela Stuart



Dr Alan Mendoza  01:44

Good morning, depending on where in the world you are joining us, and welcome to the Henry Jackson society, first online event and its quite a cracker we’ve got lined up for you. Before I introduce our guest speakers, just a word on housekeeping. So, what we will be doing, during the discussion part, the first part of the event, we will be asking you to send in your questions, there’s a Q&A tab that you can do that on that we will then call for questions in the second half of the seminar. The backroom team will unmute people who are selected to ask questions, you then may have to join the meeting, clicking your audio button just to join so we can hear you. You’ll give your question and then we will move to answers. You’ll be muted again after that, but the aim of course is to get as many people as possible to get their questions in. So do start sending your questions in and we will come to you in due course. But, it’s a great pleasure to see so many people online. I’m sure that’s a testimony to our two speakers in our event today on the great coming apart; Coronavirus and its impact on our international outlook. Firstly, I’m going to introduce Nick Timothy. Nick is the author of Remaking One Nation: The Future of Conservatism, much we’ll get into in the middle of this or after this discussion. But, of course, he most famously actually has been chief of staff to Prime Minister Theresa May, in a long background in politics, of course, he joined the conservative Research Fund in 2001. Went into government as a special advisor from 2010 and the home office, party as moment as Chief of Staff (inaudible) as we all know, in the election of 2017. But, since then, he’s come back as a thoughtful commentator on all things domestic and international. He’s a telegraph columnist, he has written in The Sun on a regular basis, and, of course, his book is what we’re going to be discussing today. And what better (inaudible) to put Nick to the sword than Gisela Stuart who of course, is playing on home territory. (inaudible). She is a founding director of the Henry Jackson Society. But, of course, we’ve had a much more distinguished career than just that. She was a Labour MP of course for 20 years from 1997 to 2017, a minister in the health department, had a role in drafting a failed European Constitution, which I think I love. Famously, of course, went on to co-chair the Vote Leave campaign and the Brexit referendum, and since she’s left political troubles. She hasn’t left politics completely because she has become Chair of Wilson Park, which is a foreign office’s executive agency that deals with strategic discussion. I hope we will have a strategic discussion with our speakers today. So what I will do is ask a couple of questions to start the process off, and we will then get into a discussion. So Nick, we’re going to start with you obviously, the book has been very well received, I think across the board. You outline briefly in the synopsis of your argument, but also because of our focus on Coronavirus and how this relates in your view to Britain’s and indeed the West’s international outlook against the crisis.

Nick Timothy  05:08

Hello, everyone. The book really is an attempt to trace the problems that we have today back to the original ideas behind the policies that got us here. In particular, it’s about some of the flaws in philosophical liberalism, and the ways liberalism has mutated into extreme forms across the left, right, and center of politics. It’s an attempt to explain how conservatism that is, you know, I would say real conservatism, can overcome ideology, become a little more communitarian. And by doing those things, borrowing the language of Disraeli and Baldwin, we can remake the country and make it one nation, once again. Now, the book was written before the pandemic, of course, and I’m afraid I’m one of those people guilty of assessing that what we’re living through is kind of evidence of what I’ve already posited. But I think I think it’s right that Coronavirus is going to change the world. I think domestically, it’s going to be very difficult to imagine politics going back to normal with conservative cabinet ministers talking about you know, a collective national efforts and talking out about how only the power of the states can help us to meet this challenge. But internationally, you know, the shock to economies will be severe; international institutions are going to come under severe pressure. Globalization will be questioned in the West like never before. I think we’ll see a huge drive for increased resilience on pretty much every front; local, national, continental, global, will see a pressure for supply chains to be shortened. To survive the crisis, liberal democracies are relying on the power of the state. And when it comes to learning the lessons, we’ll see demands for very big increases in state capacity. We obviously know that despite its responsibility for the crisis, China is already trying to exploit it, and it’s quite possible that it will emerge stronger than before, however perverse that might be. And it’s definitely I think, it definitely now means I think, that we’re beyond time for Western governments to get real about China and to change their policies towards China. But I think it’s really important to say that this isn’t like a sudden change in direction for World Affairs. Coronavirus, I think is likely to hasten a trend that’s been underway for some time. And that thanks to massive economic and geopolitical changes, the rise of China being one of them, the world as we knew it before, and the rules based system of global governance has been breaking down for some time. And I think Coronavirus is likely to just really underline that fact.

Dr Alan Mendoza  08:17

Let me quickly press you on a couple of these points. You say the rules based system has been breaking down for some time and Coronavirus will increase that. What’s your sort of evidence of that that will take us a little bit into that argument?

Nick Timothy  08:30

Well, I think I mean, if you take international institutions, there’s a lot of evidence that while those institutions we’re never perfect, they’ve grown weaker over the last 10-20 years or so, you’ve got the World Trade Organization that’s been paralyzed quite deliberately by the Americans, you’ve got the United Nations that’s been unable to do anything about a variety of global conflicts, not least because of China and Russia’s role on the Security Council, the European Union, which I think is failing because of the kind of contradictions created by its sort of state building ambitions. You’ve got China creating new institutions like the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank, deliberately to try to compete with some of the international institutions that the West had created before. And, of course, we’ve seen the West’s relative decline vis-a-vis China and other kind of reluctance in America to continue its sort of global leadership role.

Dr Alan Mendoza  09:46

Good. I’m going to bring you in now Gisela. Obviously, Nick’s put a lot into that opening sort of statement. I’m curious as to what you would agree with in his analysis and what you would disagree with and why.

Gisela Stuart  10:01

I think one of the things which goes back to the founding reasons of the Henry Jackson Society, which was a defense of liberal values, and that occasionally means that intervention is justified. And Nick and I, we have quite a long history, which is, we came together over Chamberlain. I was a Birmingham MP in Nick’s time in Birmingham, and of course, late 19th century, that kind of civic capacity. And part of that importance of communities is something which is in Nick’s book, as well as remaking one nation, and some of the things which he addresses. There are really no questions of the left or the right, I think there are questions of what underpins functioning democracies, and you can tackle the problems from a slightly different point of views, but they’re really unifying strands. And the one thing which I thought I really disagreed with Nick on was in one of the articles following his book in the sentence, which made me ring you up, Alan and say, we need to discuss this with Nick, was that western countries have no need to involve themselves in unwinnable Middle Eastern wars. And I can see why he says that, and it’s as a Labour politician, and Labour has always been the party that traditionally, other than under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, which has come to an end, Labour’s always, when it’s in government, been strong on defense. And in in my political life, I’ve often seen that the conservatives went in for a form of managed decline, we no longer have power of influence, and therefore, the best thing we can do is keep out of the affairs of others. And to this day, I’m a great defender of Blair’s Chicago speech, that doesn’t mean that the way we’ve been to the way we intervene has been right. And it doesn’t mean that the decision to intervene has always been driven by the right reasons. However, I do still think there’s a case to be made for involving yourself in other people’s affairs in defense of values. And the other thing where I think I probably, it’s not so much that I disagree with Nick, I think I would just make more of it, is the justification for the nation state as the unit for decision making, you know, once they agree within international institutions, I think that drive for supranational institution has been the answer to globalisation. I think that has taken a series knock, and that I probably would just be more explicit about that, than Nick is.

Dr Alan Mendoza  12:53

Nick, I was going to invite you to come back on the liberal interventionism point.

Nick Timothy  12:58

Well, before I do that, I think on the point about supranational ism, I completely agree. I mean, I think the world needs international institutions. And I think you really, really need to study history, and in particular examples, like the way in which the world sort of stumbled into the First World War, to know that you need international institutions for clear communication, for certainty. You know, to share information about what’s going wrong and how we can put things right. The shortcomings of the WHO probably demonstrate the need for that kind of international cooperation, quite clearly, but we absolutely need to maintain democratic legitimacy and accountability. And so I’m very, very strong believer in in those multilateral institutions, still having the nation state as their basis for international organization. And they should remain inter-governmental and not supranational. For the reasons Gisela said now on terrible Tory decliners. I mean, I think I think it’s probably quite naturally, if you come at what I say from a progressive perspective, it’s probably quite easy to say I’m a decliner, but I think I would push back by saying that, actually, this is one of the problems with liberalism, that I talked about in the book, which is liberalism can mean two things. It can stand for a fairly limited approach to government which essentially means pluralism. It means an acceptance of difference. It means having institutions and norms and political cultures that we will accept those differences and help us to try to live peaceably with one another, despite those differences of interests, and values, but there’s another side to liberalism, which is more ideological. And, and you can trace it back to thinkers like John Stuart Mill, but you can see it in a lot of what our political leaders say and do today, which is justified liberalism, can justify that pluralism, on the basis that it allows for a kind of trial and error, which combined with human rationalism can take us to an ever more perfect society. And the problem with that is anybody who disagrees with the direction of travel, or anybody who still respects and wants to enjoy the old ways of life, the old traditions, the old customs and so on, is seen by liberals as irrational. They’re roadblocks to progress. And this is how liberalism, I think can sometimes be, can become, quite illiberal and intolerant of people who disagree with it. And I think that sometimes plays out in foreign policy, in the problem that liberals and philosophical liberalism creates for foreign policy is a combination of its assumptions about, you know, its universalism, you know, we are effectively the same the world over in belief, in rationalism, that certain sort of traditions and customs are things that we all just want to shed so that we can learn more and become more individually autonomous, in a sense that progress is inevitable, means that we look at other countries, countries that might be quite dangerous to us, like China, and we underestimate how dangerous they are, because we assume that countries like China want to become like us, and will inevitably become like us, and therefore, will not want to do us any harm. And if you think like that, then I think you can be quite wide eyed, and naive and get things wrong in the world.

Dr Alan Mendoza  17:39

Is that a fair summary of the liberal position as such or has Nick taken, what he’d like to take from that and hoisted it on as long as a worldview.

Gisela Stuart  17:49

I don’t think there’s that much I would disagree with him on liberalism. And even looking at it from a different view, there was a very interesting article not long ago by the Reverend Charles Fraser, which was called in defence of original sin, which struck me as a curious argument. So I ended up reading it and his argument was that if your starting point isn’t that you believe you are perfect, that actually everybody is imperfect in some way, or in Charles phrases, context, religious context, he was that you’re tainted by Original Sin, then you’re much more understanding of other people’s failures, because you know, you, too, have failures. And you don’t assume that you are perfect, and the rest of the world could be just as perfect as you if only they chose to be so. So those who are not like you condemned themselves on two grounds. The first one is, they’re not like me. And B, if only they chose to they could be like me. And I think that’s been the trap, a lot of the liberalism has fallen into that and thought it has found the holy grail of what is perfect, and then assumes that every rational being by choice could be like them. And of course, we as liberal democracies may have fallen a bit into that trap. But we thought in the wake of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the collapse of the Soviet Union, if only we leave everything to their own devices, the you know, the world, they will all become liberal democracies. And we’ve misunderstood some of the foundations of that. And to me, that the saddest reflection of that one, I remember a visit to with a British Foreign Affairs Committee, to then Wolfowitz in the United States, who showed us with great pride, a book of women going to vote in Afghanistan, and they held up the purple finger and you said that is democracy having succeeded. And I said no, what succeeded is a bit of the process of democracy. But if you’ve got literacy levels of 4%, in a ballot paper of 43 names and in our traditions of political parties, the ballot paper is not the foundation for well-functioning democracies. And I think that’s where Nick’s books very important, the remaking one nation, and it really is not that you have to be conservative, it’s just as important for people from other political parties, as it reminds ourselves of these structures and values we want to support the required communities, that they require policies driven by some beliefs, to shape those institutions. And once they will, have to be open to discussion. And, you know, one of the arguments Nick makes of the current problems in the making is how globalization hasn’t left, a lot of workers in on very low salaries, and the benefits of their companies wasn’t going back to the communities anymore, we kind of just disappeared on that. So that argument of the low income of a lot of workers, you almost feel well, it’s odd that this comes from the right, and it should be a classic Labour territory, but it isn’t. So I think it is that coming back to the importance of communities and responding to them appropriately, rather than telling them what is this they should think? And so I agree with Nick on that analysis. And we need to go back to what that means for, you know, for decision making processes, what do we believe in. And I think neither left nor the right have been too open and explicit what it is they do believe in, and then put it on the table so it can be argued over, rather than an assertion of right, and just finished with one observation, the one thing which I thought was the most striking thing after the 2016 referendum is the usually even after election defeat, and next books very interesting and know what it felt like to be Number 10. In 2017, when the electoral results were coming in, you kind of challenge what you were doing. But after the referendum, the losing side didn’t say why did they win? And why did we lose? They decided the side which won were racist and stupid and bad, and they were good. And I think that language of asserting I’m good, rather than saying, I’m making my case, is something really need to return to?

Dr Alan Mendoza  22:55

Let me ask you two questions. We opened up to the audience, I see a lot of questions coming in. And they’re helpfully grouped into certain sections. So let me start with this. On that point, if you like of who is good, who is better, there is a perception during the rounds that authoritarian, non-democratic states may have handled the crisis better than democratic ones, at least at this point in time. Do you agree with that? And on the way how do you think democracies can recover, if you like, the upper hand in this debate about which system works best against? Well, I’ll start with you on this one, and then we’ll continue.

Gisela Stuart  23:38

Well, who has handled the pandemic the best? Literally, right now, we can’t tell? We don’t yet know. And it’s interesting, if you go back and read the account of the 1918, Spanish flu, it’s kind of repeat; it was called Spanish Flu even so in because Spain was the only country which didn’t have the post-World War One censorship, and therefore they admitted to having had the virus. And it came in three waves. And the second wave actually was by far more lethal than either the first one or the third one. So it is true that dictatorships appear to have more immediate levers of control. But, you know, making trains run on time, may be convenient. But there’s more to democracy than that. But you’re so right, that the resilience of the state and its ability to deliver on behalf of its citizens is something, is one of the lessons, I do think we need to learn, the people. Even in democracies, people expect the state and to know what how its infrastructure structure operates, and have access to that and the challenge for us is that we do not trade individually to privacy or those rights in the interest of bureaucratic efficiency, because it’s tempting, but it’s a short term solution.

Dr Alan Mendoza  25:13

Nick, your view?

Nick Timothy  25:15

And I think, I think it’s always the case that all sorts of authoritarian governments can move, well can mobilise, the functions and the agencies of their states, and they can do things with their populations, that democracies can’t and they give the impression of being, you know, faster and more efficient for those reasons. But in the end, they’re not. Because they don’t have the legitimacy that democracies do when a country like Britain decides to go into lockdown. Of course, to some degree, it is policed by government bodies, including the Police. But it is done because we, as a society, have talked about it and elected leaders have debated it, and we’ve decided to do it to some degree together. And that legitimacy makes it much easier to sustain decisions like those into the medium term. Also I think our openness means that while it can be very inconvenient for governments to have that kind of scrutiny, especially at times of crisis, openness is what leads to better decision making. And no, I think it’s pretty clear that the government was heading along one particular path until Imperial College London published their research and then government policy moved slightly, and that was that was in response to the sort of, you know, this is the kind of collective wisdom that the country has managed to build and the specific expertise that our institutions have managed to develop and, you know, autocracies can’t do that, they shut down debate. We’re all I think, talking about things like the speed with which China was able to construct these hospitals from scratch burps, you know, we haven’t spent that much time talking about the fact that when medics in Wuhan tried to blow the whistle on what was happening, the first response of the state was to deny it, tried to suppress the information and punish the people who were trying to spread the news. So actually, this supposed efficiency its apparent is never quite as simple as it seems.

Dr Alan Mendoza  27:46

Okay, thank you. And now a question that both of you will be well placed to answer, although it’s not on our sort of, you know, high on our list of agenda at the moment. Both of you were heavily involved in either Brexit discussions or the Brexit campaign, I put it to you with (inaudible) Brexit, given the news today that Britain’s GDP will fall 35% in quarter-two, two million unemployed. And the likely effects of that going forwards, Nick over to you.

Nick Timothy  28:12

Well, I think we have to understand what this economic hit actually means. I mean, firstly, it’s a slightly unusual context, in that it is government policy to deliberately stop the economy. And we’re stopping the economy because we’re putting public health first. So it is not a surprise that we’re going to get this absolutely enormous hit over one or maybe two quarters. Obviously, the hype and expectation is that when people return to work and commerce resumes, that not only will we have the kind of growth that we would have had anyway, we will also have extra growth because some of the economic activity that we’ve suppressed during this period will be released. I don’t think that necessarily means that we will have a V shaped recovery, which is what I think a lot of people thought at the beginning, there’s probably going to be tougher than that. And we’ll probably see businesses fail and unemployment rise. So we’re undoubtedly in for a period of economic difficulty and pain. Does that mean with Brexit as you asked? No, I don’t think it does. Brexit is a decision to leave the European Union, is a generational decision. It’s about the country’s future for the next several decades. It’s not about economic cycles, quarterly growth, quarterly contractions and so on. And in a way, I think the economic consequences of Coronavirus, put some of the debates about Brexit in perspective. I mean, a lot of people in Westminster were, besides themselves with, you know, worry, anger, and so on over the possibility that our economy might not grow as fast as was projected by the Treasury if we leave the EU. Now we’re talking about this very sudden contraction. And the scale of the two things are very different. And I think in some senses, it will put the economic side of Brexit into a more appropriate perspective.

Dr Alan Mendoza  30:48

Okay, Gisela the same question to you with a caveat, do you think the transition period will be extended?

Gisela Stuart  30:55

Let me deal with the transition period first. It always struck me as very odd that if the biggest damage, and a lot of people on the remain side argued we were doing to the economy in this process was uncertainty, this continues (inaudible) for more time, which has now been going on for the best part of three years, which would just extend uncertainty, I’ve always failed to understand what would you deliver by extra time other than putting off the day, which some people didn’t want to happen? Now, if we get to the end of this year, and the two negotiators, and the two sides make a very specific case for saying, no, there are 1, 2, 3 things which we need to solve them for that we need more time, then I think people will be very open. But this notion that just because you want more time you think you have to explain why you need more time, that with a Brexit well, Brexit never was about the economy In that sense. It wasn’t an economic decision. It was a decision about governance, it was this nation deciding who should have the final word of the borders, their taxes and their laws. And I think that is as much the case now as it was in 2016. However, I think it’s going to be a very interesting debate within the Euro countries as a response to the current crisis. You see, my argument always has been that the Euro countries need to have a much deeper political integration and fiscal integration than they currently have. You know, this debt chair, and all those things are important. And I think that will be the challenge to the Eurozone, how they respond to it. And the tension between the North and the South. This closing of borders, you know, President Macron’s speech yesterday evening, where he argued that, you know, French supply chains have to become more French. I think there’s some things happening on the site, too. And to me, the real challenge, which will come to us is, how will the Eurozone, very specifically the Eurozone, respond to the debt? And we haven’t put down for that one yet.

Dr Alan Mendoza  33:22

Thank you very much. What I’m going to do is now open up to the audience, just reminder, when I call you, that our backroom team will unmute you and you will be able to speak. If you can’t just press the mute button, which should enable you to unmute yourself at that moment in time, your question will then be muted again. Now, I’m going to try and group questions into themes. The first theme I have is Chinese accountability for this crisis. I’m going to call Bob Stewart, MP first, then, Harry Cole. And then we’re going to come to Lord Blencathra. If you were just when you open just give a brief descriptor, your name and your position I for anyone who doesn’t know you. So firstly over to Bob Stewart.

Bob Stewart MP  34:14

I’m Bob Stewart I’m the member of Parliament for Beckenham and I’m a Conservative. And I’ve been looking very closely at what China did, from the time and roundabout November when it realized that it had a problem in Wuhan and its sort of 40 days before it declared to the World Health Organization. It was pretty slow in January, didn’t allow people in, didn’t accept responsibility started throwing out ideas that it wasn’t human to human etc. transmission. And now as Nick has mentioned, that the Chinese authorities are trying to throw the blame out of China towards other nations. I mean, I agree with what Nick Timothy has said that, you know, this does show that China is not really thinking like the rest of us and that and the present international system, and I wouldn’t trust China one little bit. So my question is, how are we going to chastise? How are we going to deal with China? Because sure as hell, they’ve got a case to answer for what they’ve done to the rest of the world.

Dr Alan Mendoza  35:37

Okay. Thank you, Bob. Now we’ll move to Harry Cole.

Harry Cole  35:42

Thank you, Harry Cole from the Mail on Sunday. Yeah. In line with what Bob just said. William Hague told a rival think tanks webinar earlier today that we have no stick and there is only really the international rules based system to deal with China. I don’t know what the panel’s responses to that and whether they agree that we are stickless.

Dr Alan Mendoza  36:04

Okay, thank you. And Lord Blencathra, for the third question in this round.

Lord David Blencathra  36:11

Thank you. Thank you very much for that. My question is this. Ever since Nixon, we all thought it was a great idea if we could bring China out of itself, trade with China deal with China. And somehow, China would then develop an incredible democracy, the best of Athenian democracy, British parliamentary democracy and American democracy combined. But all that has happened is that the ruthless Communist Party of China have kept even tougher control everything they do, and I’m so copying what William Hague did see this morning as well. Everything to do is designed to keep complete control. How do we in the West tackle that? How do we hold the Chinese Communist Party to account without being accused of being racist towards the Chinese people? And how on earth are we going to unite the West, not just Britain and the United States, but Germany and France and others in the West, who will, in my opinion, sell some of them sell their souls to deal with China? Rather than tackle them politically? A simple little question like that. Okay.

Dr Alan Mendoza  37:13

Thank you. Right, panellists, Nick, I’m going to go to you first, you’ve got three questions there to have a crack at.

Nick Timothy  37:21

I think I mean, clearly, there is a limit to what the UK can do unilaterally. But from our own perspectives, I think we can get real about China’s threat to our security, but also our economic systems. So that definitely has to start with a different approach to Chinese investments, and activity inside our critical national infrastructure. Whether that’s things like energy, or whether it’s the telecommunications system, and the notorious Huawei decision, I would think, definitely needs to be overturned. There’s things that I think we can do in terms of our own resilience and state capacity to be able to cope with different kinds of economic shocks and security threats. And we obviously have Defence and Security review at the moment, which I think has been put on hold while the state is throwing resources at the crisis. But an awareness and this is pretty good timing, because it will, this crisis will, inform some of the decisions. And I think, firstly, that should mean a greater investment in our security and defence capabilities. But it should probably also mean something of a fusion, I think, between what we conventionally think of as security and what we conventionally think of as military. And then internationally, I think, I think we obviously have to work in concert with others, we have to build alliances with countries with similar scepticism towards China. Japan being quite a good example, South Korea, there are many pretty large, fast growing, independent countries. Japan, South Korea, being related to those but also the likes of Mexico, Indonesia, and so on, with whom I think we can strike up better relations. I would think that there is a case for reforming some of the world’s international institutions to give more of a voice to some of those countries. I think the West needs to come together to create some kind of institution that will allow it to happen. To regulate cyberspace and protect the internet from China, which is continually pushing to change the basis of internet regulation to give the states more control within a particular country. I think, actually, world opinion matters. And we have an important opportunity right now, to make sure that the world fully understands what has happened with Coronavirus. What the Chinese did and didn’t do. And there is a case, I think, for some kind of international investigation into the origins of the outbreak. And clearly that cannot be done by an organization like the World Health Organization, which appears to be well, rather too close to Beijing, shall we say? It will need to be done through some kind of ad hoc organization. And I think the West can make sure that that is done in an appropriate way.

Dr Alan Mendoza  41:09

Gisela your thoughts on the three questions we’ve had?

Gisela Stuart  41:15

I’m kind of I don’t want to give the impression that I’m an apologist for China here. I first went to Wuhan in 1980. It’s a country I’ve watched with considerable interest. And it has actually been quite consistent. It has been quite consistent in defining its national interests, which for a long time had been more inward looking rather than outward looking. It then became more internationalist, not in the sense, as we understand it, but it reached beyond its borders, and created that debt dependencies. It went into Africa, for example, and building railways and giving aid without making a no human rights conditions have we done, it’s actually been quite open in the way it has acted. And there has been a wilful blindness on our side, what that really meant. I mean, I remember not long ago, discussions in Germany about the G5 and I realized that the Germans were terribly taken aback by the lack of alternatives. So I think then, rather than looking for a stick to beat China up with and, and if you look at how, how much we’ve failed, trying to get Russia to fall into line with the things we want them to do, is, we need to build up that resilience of doing things you will trade. Of course, if I just do one very limited example of where we, we have kind of allowed ourselves, we built a trap for ourselves. It has been in a number of Russian universities, of extraordinary dependency on Chinese students in large numbers for their business model, which, whether you agree with what China does, or doesn’t do, even as a business model to be so dependent on one, which essentially, is a totalitarian state that can add one decision, withdrawal of students simply didn’t make much sense. So I think we need to stop thinking that the decline of Western values is a given, we need to accept that our technology, technological superiority is not a given. And then how do we respond to the fact that out of the five members, we know we by the US, the UK and France are having an increasing difficulty with the ideology of two those, Russia and China. And that means we need to build up our security and resilience much more. If we don’t like the dependency, what do we do about it, just on the global impact of the virus, there will have to be an investigation to for us to understand why this virus spread so quickly. And so globally, and I think this will be the test for China as to whether it recognizes that the original phase that had been wrong, and then now become more open. So it will be quite a telling sign as to how much China is prepared to be a an open player within certain areas of international order.

Dr Alan Mendoza  44:38

Okay, and for anyone who’s interested in a comprehensive timeline of the outbreak of the virus Henry Jackson Society did, of course, produce a report on this last week. I commend all of you to read it as to potential legal responses to China as well, but let’s move on to another tranche of questions on a different topic and I’m going to call, firstly, Lord Boateng, and then William Claxton Smith and then Jamie Saunders. So over to you, Lord Boateng,

Lord Boateng  45:08

Has the time come for us to revisit as a system, the need for a strategic industrial policy, where we recognize quite clearly that there are some areas that can be counted upon as public goods, where we cannot afford to allow our supply chains and our capacity to manufacture these goods, whether it’s ventilators and elements of farm to be allowed to be dominated by our strategic rivals. And we ourselves have to be prepared to intervene actively with public money if necessary to invest in the production domestically of those manufacturing goods that have a strategic value. Okay,

William Claxton-Smith  46:06

I take somewhat the opposite view here that while the general feeling seems to be that this pandemic will lead to a reduction in global trade and globalization, I do wonder beyond the issue of China, as mentioned in the educational system. Whether actually, we do need to continue to trade internationally, local problems are more common than global problems, and often a local problem as in agriculture is solved by trading globally, rather than going for the self-sufficiency as just suggested by the previous questioner.

Dr Alan Mendoza  46:50

Okay, thank you very much. And Jamie Saunders.

Jamie Saunders  46:59

I’m a retired civil servant. If there is a sustained post COVID reduction in globalized trade, who loses out most the west or China and what does this mean for the UK?

Dr Alan Mendoza  47:16

Thank you very much, for our three questioners, Gisela over to you first for this one this round.

Gisela Stuart  47:23

I think Lord Boateng put his finger on a very big question which we have to return to. Now 20 years ago, we kind of forgotten the fuel crisis when tanker drivers in Scottish refineries have brought picketed the refineries. And we came within three hours in the health system of having the first deaths because nurses didn’t have access to petrol. And in their analysis, afterwards, it became quite clear that there were certain infrastructures which the government didn’t understand anymore. And I think whether it is to who finances our nuclear power stations, if we say that part of the energy mix has to be nuclear, whether it comes to who controls the data in our health systems. These kinds of strategic decisions that there’s some things you need in order to function as a state, and this is not a move to, you know, glorious independence of self-sufficiency, this is that there are some things the state has to do and the state is responsible for, because its citizens have an expectation that we run them properly, I think will be a big debate which is emerging out of this. And it is, we will make a big mistake if we make this an argument between the left and the right. It’s not, you know, global nationalisation, it is about saying certain infrastructure things, we have a right to expect to have control over and very much hope that the poor will be part of that debate, in terms of who will suffer most and local problems, and I think trade will change. I mean, there’s some things where we go and say our supply chains are just too short. There’ll be some things and this probably already came out of extinction rebellion, where we start to say, you know, do we really need to import fermented milk from the continent? Or Couldn’t we just make the yogurt here with the milk you know, you have to start looking at some things of saying, do they really need to need to have to travel. And I think there will be a revisiting on the reliance of these very short and tight supply chains as to who will suffer most if we have to, if we have a decline in trade. It I don’t think it’s, I don’t like looking at this thing which country was famous, I can tell you who will say for most, it’s those who had the moment least able to defend themselves those least able to, to meet their needs. And we already see this and the current lockdown. That kind of difference between those who increasingly relying on food banks, those who never who haven’t got gardens to go into, to deal with the lockdown. So the poor will suffer most. And that’s is something which grieves me greatly. And that’s why I think we need to, to look at that. And just one final word on if there’s one lesson which we have to learn from this is essential workers, we call essential workers, and we choose to pay them least maybe we need to read, we need to revisit that that essential workers, maybe there shouldn’t be at the bottom of the pay scale.

Dr Alan Mendoza  50:53

Thank you very much for that. Nick, over to you for your thoughts on the trio of questions.

Nick Timothy  50:59

Well, there’s a clear theme to the questions, but they said, I think they take you into slightly different places. But the things that the each of them made me think was the way in which we’ve debated economic policy and globalization for the last few decades, at least, has been in this ridiculously kind of binary way. So I think it was, Tony Blair said, you might as well debate about whether autumn follows summers as whether you’re in favour of globalisation or not, you know, it’s just happening, it’s natural, it’s organic, and there’s nothing that can be done about it. But of course, processes like globalization are shaped by decisions and decisions of states and international institutions, all the time. And when we talk about winners and losers, from any changes that might emerge from this crisis, and I agree with Gisela that changes are inevitable. It doesn’t necessarily mean that there will be a drastic reduction in global trade, what it will mean is that the shapes of global trade are likely to change. And then the model of globalization that we’ve had for the last 20 years or more, has effectively created a lot of losers in the West already, because what’s happened is production networks have gone transnational, and the clever high skilled, sort of research and development marketing functions and so on, of certain companies have remained in the West. And then the assembly and the production work, previously done by sort of mid skilled workers in the West is now done in a completely different country. China is one of them. But there are several other countries like Vietnam, for example, where that work now takes place. What that means is that when British companies, Western companies become more innovative, become more competitive, and succeed, the shares of that success on spread in a very wide way in society. Yes, that contributes to the relief of poverty in countries like China and Vietnam. And it certainly makes a lot of sort of high skilled workers in countries like Britain a lot richer. But the sort of mid skilled workers he would have benefited a generation ago, it’s not just that they get less of a share in the, in the return from that company’s success is that they don’t get any share of it at all, because they’re no longer employed by the company. And so the model of globalization we’ve had is, has sort of hollowed out our workforce where the number of mid skilled jobs and mid paid jobs has fallen quite drastically, which has affected actually, I think, male employees quite considerably, and is probably one of the factors in the kind of destabilization of Western politics over the last 10 years or so. So I think what I’m trying to say is we can’t just reduce this to debate about whether you’re in favor of globalization or whether you believe that there should be global trade or not, of course, there will be, but that those models of trade need to be regulated markets that don’t just occur naturally in a vacuum. They’re created by laws and regulations and treaties. And we can change these things. And part of that, if I just end the answer, there’s part of that I think is definitely as Lord Boateng said about retaining certain strategic industrial functions in in our country, but also, you know, some of them might not necessarily need to remain in Britain itself but should remain in western countries where we have friendships and alliances.

Dr Alan Mendoza  55:20

And now we’ve got time for one very quick fire round of questions and answers questions. Please keep your comments, just your questions so we can get the answers from them. I’m going to take Garry Rayant first.

Garry Rayant  55:41

Thank you, Alan, from San Francisco, California. Thank you very for a very spirited discussion. My question is, is this the time for a more international collaboration modelled on something like the Marshall Plan after world war two?

Nick Timothy  56:00

I think to some degree where we’re seeing some of that is actually quite extraordinary. So we’re criticizing, rightly, the lack of cooperation around the world when it comes to sort of information share, and quite early on in the outbreak, and so on. And I think the World Health Organization definitely has a lot of questions to answer. But there is one thing that is quite extraordinary about the world’s response to dates, which is the way in which scientific and scientific researchers around the world dropped everything and started work on trying to understand this virus, and trying to understand treatments and, and searching for vaccine that my work. And that’s been done on an unprecedented scale with an unprecedented degree of collaboration and sharing genomic information and so on.

Gisela Stuart  57:42

A really good note to end on because, you know, eighth of May 1945, we’re coming up to the 75th anniversary of what gave rise to the Marshall Plan, the Marshall Plan was taking, you know, leadership, based on a very clear desire to have Europe develop on democratic lines, not the term communist. And I think we do need some, we do need a taking a leadership a kind of confidence that, (inaudible), we are not the kind of liberals who think we have found all the right answers, and everybody must be like us. However, there are some values which we do defend. And I do hope that this is a real wake up call, that the defence of democratic values does require taking a leadership and at the moment, I think we have been found wanting in our response to that.

Dr Alan Mendoza  58:36

So let me quickly ask a final question that was actually raised by John Dobson I’m just going to ask it now quickly, what would be a good outcome from this pandemic? Gisela, you first, Nick, you second.

Gisela Stuart  58:47

That is such a wrong way of putting it, Alan. However, if as a result of this, we kind of revisit some of the things which are important. And they are, that the infrastructures will require resilience, we need to understand what drives us and more to the point of crucial public sector workers who we rely on a health care service. If we think they’re crucial. I think we need to treat them better. So that will be some of the things I hope we will learn.

Nick Timothy  59:24

Well, I mean, clearly, we just want a way of treating this thing, and hopefully our vaccine will emerge. But I think on a sort of social and political level, better international governance, more national resilience, greater state capacity, we really need to try to harness the amazing sense of community and solidarity that I think people are showing through things like the NHS volunteering program, and the respect as Gisela said, for people who I think have quite often been forgotten or neglected by our leaders.

Dr Alan Mendoza  59:59

Thanks. Thank you, sorry to all those who’ve asked questions who we couldn’t get to, time has run out. But you’ve asked the main themes on that. Thank you all for participating from home. And of course, a big thank you to Gisela Stuart and Nick Timothy, for having joined us and given their thoughts on a wide variety of subjects that was very illuminating, to hear you jab at each other, agree with each other, disagree with each other, but do so in the kind of spirits that we all hope will be the mainstream going forward, as well. And just a reminder, Nick’s book is out. You’ve had a link to buy it. I’m sure he’d welcome the ability to sign it one day, should we ever emerged from lockdown, but he’d be happy to contribute to that as well. So thank you all for joining us and we’ll be back next week with another event details will come to you soon. Hope you have a pleasant rest of the day, wherever you are. Thank you for joining.


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