top of page



Liberal Democrat Peer

Lord McNally has played a key role in the evolution of centre-left and centrist politics during his time in politics. After heading up Jim Callaghan's political office at Downing Street in 1976 he was elected to the House of Commons in 1979 as the Labour MP for Stockport South. In 1981 he defected to the newly-formed Social Democratic Party but after losing his seat at the 1983 general election he supported the successful merger with the Liberal Party in 1987 to form the Liberal Democrats. In 1995 McNally became a life peer and in 2004 succeeded Baroness Williams as Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords - a position he held until 2013. In 2010 he became the Minister of State for Justice before stepping down in 2013 to become the Chair of the Youth Justice Board. 

Given his wide-ranging experience of Labour, the SDP and the Liberal Democrats, Lord McNally was uniquely placed to give a very pertinent talk on: Can the centre-left provide an electable opposition?




Philip Collins is a columnist and chief leader writer at The Times. He is also the chair of the board of trustees at the independent think tank Demos, a Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics and an associate editor of Prospect magazine. He was previously Director of the Social Market Foundation, an independent think tank and charity, a top ranked equity strategist in the City and a political assistant to Frank Field MP. He has published two novels with Harper Collins and a number of academic books on broadcasting policy and public service reform. 

Philip talked about the current state of the Labour Party



Liberal Democrat Peer

Lord John Sharkey is a Liberal Democrat Peer. He was was Chairman of the Liberal Democrat election campaign during the 2010 General Election and Director of the 'Yes! To Fairer Votes' campaign during the 2011 Alternative Vote referendum. He is a former joint managing director of Saatchi and Saatchi UK, the communications and advertising agency, where he had special responsibility for the Turkish government's preparation of its case for entry into the EU, as well as the Conservative election campaign in 1987. He is also a trustee and honorary treasurer of the Hansard Society, an independent and non-partisan charity that aims to promote parliamentary democracy. 

Lord Sharkey spoke on: Why Britain voted to Leave on June 23 and what that means for social cohesion.



Swiss Ambassador to the UK

Ambassador Furgler has been the Swiss Ambassador to the United Kingdom since 2013 having previously held numerous senior positions in the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs including as the Swiss Ambassador to Egypt between 2009 and 2013. Switzerland itself has a unique relationship with the European Union that is framed by a series of bilateral treaties whereby the Swiss Confederation has adopted various provisions of EU law in order to participate in the EU's single market. It is a model often cited as a possibility for a post-Brexit United Kingdom and as such it was extremely interesting to hear if this possibility is an attractive one. 

The Ambassador gave a talk entitled: Switzerland and the EU - a strong and challenging relation.




Griff Witte is The Washington Post’s London Bureau Chief. He has previously served as the paper’s Deputy Foreign Editor and as Bureau Chief in Kabul, Islamabad and Jerusalem. Witte has reported from more than 20 countries, and has covered wars, revolutions, riots and other upheavals. In his current job, he ranges across Europe to cover the myriad challenges facing the continent. Before joining the Post, Witte served as researcher for Steve Coll’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Ghost Wars. He has taught courses on foreign correspondence at Georgetown and Princeton universities.

The Washington Post is the most widely-circulated newspaper published in Washington D.C. and has won 47 Pulitzer Prizes.

Griff spoke on: The US and Britain: the Special Relationship in the age of Brexit and Trump.



Palestinian Diplomatic Representative to the UK

Manuel Hassassian was appointed in 2005 as Palestinian Diplomatic Representative to the UK by President Mahmoud Abbas. He has worked and studied in Bethlehem, Beirut, and the USA. In March 2015 he won a Grassroot Diplomat Initiative award for his work promoting the rights of Palestinian people. He spoke about his considerable and personal experience of the Arab-Israeli conflict on the subject 'The future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: chances for the two-state and one-state solutions', followed by a Q&A.



BBC Diplomatic Correspondant

Bridget Kendall is a journalist, the BBC's Diplomatic correspondent and will become the first female Master of Peterhouse college in July. She reported on the break up of the Soviet Union and has interviewed Boris Yeltsin, Mikhail Gorbachev, Vladimir Putin, and King Abdullah of Jordan among others. With her formidable experience, Bridget considered the question 'Do Russia and Europe need each other?' in a short talk followed by a Q&A.




Dr Haytham Alhamwi lived, worked and capmaigned in Syria. He was imprisoned by the Assad regime before the revolution for his campaigning which included attempting to set up a library, organising street cleaning and involvement in an anti-corruption campaign. He now lives in the UK, lobbying parliament and works with Rethink Rebuild, a Manchester-based community organisation which does work for refugees and for the revolution. 

The talk was hosted in conjunction with POLIS and Alhamwi talked on the subject: 'Syria is not a civil war: a personal experience'. 



Liberal Democrat MP

Norman Lamb is a pioneering politician helping to lead the debate and action on improving the NHS, mental health services and social care. As Care Minister he delivered huge reform which included capping care costs. He is now the Health spokesman for his party the Liberal Democrats. Norman is a seasoned and respected voice in UK politics and drew on his expertise in government in his talk, entitled 'Mental Health and the Future of the NHS'. 




Martin Rowson is the Guardian's editorial cartoonist and a freelance writer and illustrator. His graphic and scathing work is among the UK's best known and respected, coming in a long tradition of satire. Martin's work is unflinchingly political; he describes himself as a 'visual journalist'. A year on from attacks on cartoonists in Paris, Martin gave his thoughts on the discussion of satire, free speech, and cartoon journalism that has followed since, and spoke about his craft and practice. 



US Ambassador to the UK

Matthew Barzun is US Ambassador to the UK. He is a seasoned diplomat who has previously acted as ambassador to Sweden, and worked on Obama's 2012 reelection campaign. Matthew gave a short talk on diplomacy in the digital age before opening the floor for a Q&A session. The event was run in conjunction with POLIS and was preceded by introductory remarks from Dr Payam Ghalehdar. 




Peter Hitchens is a journalist, broadcaster, author, and former foreign correspondent. A distinctive voice in UK political commentary for many years now, Peter writes a regular column for the Mail on Sunday offering his always uncompromising perspective. He discussed 'Drugs legislation in the UK', followed by a Q&A session.



Panel event

This event was run in collaboration with Cambridge University Amnesty International and the Centre of Governance and Human Rights.

Such questions were addressed as: Are organisations such as Amnesty International and the United Nations, and human rights theory in general, inherently imperialistic because of the nature of their inception? Does the nature of their inception render their work illegitimate and/or harmful or is it irrelevant? Does the over-intellectualisation of human rights theory impede humanitarian efforts? Is ‘cultural relativism’ a form of racism? Do charities patronise the people they try to help? 
With us to discuss these questions were: Lucy Wake (Government and Political Relations Manager for Amnesty International and previously a board member of End Violence Against Women), Professor Stephen Hopgood (Co-Director of the Centre for the International Politics of Conflict, Rights and Justice (CCRJ) at SOAS and author of the ethnography, 'Keepers of the Flame: Understanding Amnesty International'), Dr Arathi Sripakash (Sociologist of education, globalisation, and international development at the University of Cambridge) and Srishti Krishnamoorthy (PhD English student at Newnham College, Cambridge and debater). The event was chaired by Dr Sharath Srinivasan who directs the University of Cambridge's Centre of Governance and Human Rights (CGHR). 



Liberal Democrat

Previous Cambridge MP Julian lost his seat to Labour’s Daniel Zeichner in May and gave his reflections on the 2015 election and the political future of Cambridge and the UK. The subject of his talk was 'The future of liberalism and progressive politics.' 



Government Chief Scientific Advisor

Professor Sir Mark Walport is the Government Chief Scientific Advisor (GCSA). He has studied medicine at Clare College and since then, has completed a PhD and held numerous positions of responsibility, including being Professor of Medicine at Imperial College, Director of the Wellcome Trust for 10 years and of course his current role as GCSA. As GCSA, he is responsible for providing scientific advice to Parliament and advising on aspects of science and technology policy. He gave a talk on the question: 'Does politics need to get more scientific or does science need to get more political?'



Political campaigner

Political campaigner and past candidate for both Labour and Greens, Tatchell is a renowned activist, known best for his LGBT campaigning. He twice attempted a citizen's arrest of President Mugabe. He gave a talk on: 'The UK is an economic dictatorship - Time for economic democracy.'




UKIP MEP and Spokesman on Migration and Financial Affairs, Steven is extremely influential in the party and is the UKIP Parliamentary candidate for Stockport ahead of the 2015 General Election. 
He spoke on the topic: 'My journey from Moss Side to Strasbourg and UKIP Spokesperson.'



Ex-Home Secretary

The former Labour home secretary and education secretary under Blair, Clarke remained an MP for Norwich South until 2010. He was also Chair of the Labour Party after 2001. Now, Charles Clarke works in a variety of fields including academia, and international education. He remains extremely influential in the Labour party and British politics more broadly. He gave a talk on the subject: 'Making the case for taxation: the left's failure to respond to Reagan and Thatcher.'



Chair of the IPCC

Dame Anne Owers was Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons. She also directed the NGO JUSTICE. She is currently chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission. She gave a talk on: 'The state of policing and the role of independent scrutiny.'



Ex-Cabinet Minister

David Blunkett was, prior to 2015, a British Labour Party politician and was the MP for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough. 
Blind since birth, he became Britain’s youngest ever Councillor, before being elected as MP in 1987. He was the first blind cabinet minister, becoming Education & Employment Secretary, Home Secretary and then Work & Pensions Secretary under the Blair government.

This event was run in conjunction with the Cambridge Union Society. 



Former Conservative MP

Lord Carrington is the former conservative MP for Fulham and now, amongst other things, the Non-Executive Director of the Arab-British Chamber of Commerce, and Chairman of the Kensington, Chelsea and Fulham Conservatives. 

He spoke on the topic: 'English Votes for English Laws and its impact on the General Election.'



President of the Islamic Society of Britain

The first female president of The Islamic Society of Britain, Sughra Ahmed also worked as a Research Fellow at the Policy Research Centre. She is Programmes Manager in the Centre for Public Education, Woolf Institute in Cambridge and a Trustee of the Inter Faith Network UK.

She gave a talk on the question: 'British Muslims and British Values: never the twain shall meet?'




Physicist and referred to as 'one of Britain's 100 most powerful women', Dame Athene Donald is a professor at Cambridge University. She is actively engaged in issues of equality and diversity. She also frequently writes for The Guardian. 

She gave a talk on: 'What does equality mean in education?'




Resigning from the Labour party in 1973, Lord Taverne won his by-election as an Independent Democratic Labour candidate, and went on to be fundamental in shaping what would become the Liberal Democrats. He gave a talk on: 'Will the next election lead to Britain's exit from the European Union?'




As a Guardian columnist and associate editor, Seumas Milne has reported from the Middle East, eastern Europe, Russia, south Asia and Latin America. In 1999 he was joint winner of the 'What the Papers Say' Scoop of the Year award. He previously worked for the Straight Left and the Economist and is the author of 'The Enemy Within: The Secret War against the miners' and 'The Revenge of History' and co-author of 'Beyond the Casino Economy'.

He gave a talk on: 'The Revenge of History: The Battle for the 21st century.'



Peace and human rights activist

Vijay Mehta is Chair of Uniting for Peace, President of Mehta Centre for Peace and Founding Trustee of Fortune Forum Charity. He is a renowned author and global activist for peace and human rights. As well as 'The Economics of Killing', he has written 'The Fortune Forum Code: For a Sustainable Future', 'Arms No More' and 'The United Nations and Its Future in the 21st Century'. 
He is a founding Trustee of Fortune Forum charity which held two summits in London in 2006 and 2007. The summits raised over a million pounds for charity and attracted a worldwide audience of 1.3 billion people. 
He has appeared on number news programmes such as BBC World, Atjak-24 Indian news channel and Press TV. He sees his life as "devoted to the service of peace, humanity and our planet." 



Panel event

Run in conjunction with The Queens' and Clare Overseas Education Fund (QCOEF), we welcomed a star-studded panel of experts from the charitable sector for an evening of questions and answers about working in the developing world. Each of the panelists talked about their careers, before opening up to a discussion on their experiences in international development. The panelists were: Loretta Minghella OBE - the current Chief Executive of Christian Aid; James Cochrane CBE - former Chairman of the British Red Cross; Dame Barbara Stocking - Vice Chair of the Steering Committee for Humanitarian Response and former Chief Exective of Oxfam GB. The event was hosted by Dr Sian Lazar, Fellow of Clare and Lecturer in the Department of Anthropology. 




Dr Read was the Green Party MEP candidate for the East of England and has also been a city councillor in his hometown of Norwich. Having read PPE at Balliol College, Oxford, he currently holds a post at the University of East Anglia, where his primary area of research is Wittgenstein philosophy. A vegan and campaigner, he is passionate about Green issues and has written for various media outlets such as the Guardian and Left Foot Forward. 

He spoke on: 'An ideology for our times: Ecologism.'




Jonathan was in Egypt for most of the uprising and can thus offer a unique and informed perspective of the events. He has reported from Syria, Tunisia, Bahrain and Libya and has reported on issues such as the eurozone crisis, the Haiti earthquake and Somalia's famine. He has previously previously worked as Turkey correspondent for the BBC and The Guardian. He has won numerous awards and is the author of "Ataturk's Children: Turkey and the Kurds". 

He spoke on: 'Egypt's unfinished revolution.' 



Ex-Cabinet Secretary

Former Master of Emmanuel College and alumnus of Clare College, Lord Richard Wilson of Dinton, reflected on his time in Cabinet during the Blair years. On graduating in 1965 he entered the Civil Service where he held a number of posts over the years. He became Permanent Under Secretary of the Home Office in 1994 and Secretary of the Cabinet and Head of the Home Civil Service in 1998. He was elevated to a life peer as Baron Wilson of Dinton in 2002, after retiring as Cabinet Secretary. 



Conservative minister

Johnson comes from a family of politicians, including his brother Boris and his father (who was a MEP). Before entering politics himself, he had a career in journalism and business, joining the Financial Times after working as an investment banker. Johnson became an Associate Editor of the Financial Times and Head of the Lex Column, one of the most influential positions in British financial journalism. A regular commentator on radio and television, he frequently speaks in public on the rise of India and the new world order, as well as on the UK political economy and financial affairs. He has received awards from a range of organisations, including most recently Amnesty International, the Foreign Press Association, the Society of Publishers in Asia and The Indian Express’s 2009 Excellence in Journalism Awards.

He spoke on the relationship between the UK and the EU.




Matthew Parris is one of the most widely respected political commentators in Britain today. A student at Clare and a Mellon Fellow at Yale, his varied career includes working for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, as Margaret Thatcher’s correspondence secretary and as a Conservative MP. Now a full time journalist and broadcaster, he is a columnist for The Times and regularly contributes to The Spectator as well as working in radio and television. He has published many books on travel and politics and his autobiography ‘Chance Witness’ won the 2004 Orwell Prize, Britain’s pre-eminent award for political writing. He is also the Honorary Patron of Clare Politics. 

He gave a talk on: 'The Politics of Free Speech.' 




Crick is currently the chief political correspondent at Channel 4 News. He was a founding member of the Channel 4 News Team in 1982 and remained there until joining the BBC in 1990. He started work on the BBC's Newsnight programme in 1992, acting as political editor from 2007 to his departure in 2011. Crick was educated at Oxford, where he was President of the Oxford Union, edited Cherwell and founded the Oxford Handbook.

He gave a talk entitled: 'Pursuing Politicians'. 




George Galloway is a British politician, author, journalist, and broadcaster, and was previously the Respect Member of Parliament for Bradford West. 

He gave a talk on Scottish independence. 



Journalist and author

Adrian Wooldridge is the Management Editor and 'Schumpeter' columnist for The Economist magazine. Previously he was The Economist's Washington Bureau Chief and 'Lexington' columnist. He has written many books, including the highly praised and influential "The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America".

His talk focused on conservative power in the USA, partiularly in the aftermath of the election. 




Simon Hoggart is an influential journalist, broadcaster, and author. He is the parliamentary sketchwriter and political correspondent for The Guardian. 

He gave a talk entitled: 'The Pageant of British History: September 2012 to November 2012'.



Senior Civil Servant

Dame Helen Ghosh is one of the most senior women in Whitehall as the Permanent Secretary of the Home Office, having previously been at The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). 

She gave a talk on the relationship between the Coalition and the Civil Service entitled 'Ministers and Mandarins: 10 things I've learned from my life in Whitehall'.



Conservative politician

Lord Michael Bates is a Conservative Party politician and Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party, serving in the House of Lords since 2008.

He gave a talk entitled: 'The Olympics Truce - Ancient Ideal or Modern Reality?' The Olympic Truce is a tradition originating from Ancient Greece. During the Truce period wars were suspended, armies were prohibited from threatening the Games, legal disputes were stopped, and death penalties were forbidden. Lord Michael Bates, began walking over 3000 miles from Olympia to London to highlight the opportunity to bring the Olympic Truce into reality during the 2012 London Summer Games.




Alex Spillius is a foreign correspondent for the Daily Telegraph. He covered the 2008 US presidential campaign in its entirety and documented the tribulations of the Obama administration and the rise of the Tea Party. During eight earlier years in Asia he reported extensively from Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Iraq, East Timor and Indonesia, among other places, before returning to London for a stint as a foreign desk editor and a spell as a roving reporter. In 1997 he won the Amnesty International Award for newspaper reporting, for work in Afghanistan.

He gave a talk entitled: 'The Race for The White House and Beyond'.



Discusssion event

This was a discussion event on the topic of 'The Race to the Whitehouse' between Professor Tony Badger (ex-Master of Clare College, Cambridge and Paul Mellon Professor of American History) and Jonathan Freedland (Guardian journalist and former US Correspondant). While Jonathan focused on the ups and downs of both political parties in the run-up to the 2012 election, Tony Badger examined what it is about the American political system that, after all the promise of 2008, made Obama’s presidency and his battle for re-election so difficult.



Labour MP

Diane Abbott MP made history in 1987 by becoming the first black woman ever elected to the British Parliament. She has since built a distinguished career as a parliamentarian, broadcaster and commentator. In 2010, Abbott became Shadow Public Health Minister, was re-elected in her constituency of Hackney North and Stoke Newington, doubled her majority on an increased turn-out and made the ballot for the Labour leadership contest. 
Abbott talked about the role and lack of women in politics.



Journalist and TV executive

Mr Dyke was the Director-General of the BBC between 2000 and 2004, and is the current Chancellor of the University of York. Mr Dyke was appointed Chairman of the British Film Institute in February 2008. In 2005, he became chairman of HIT and in 2006 he became chairman of Brentford Football Club.In his four years at the BBC he started four new digital television channels, five new digital radio channels, opened two new BBC regions, launched the BBC's interactive television services and helped create Freeview. Greg reversed the trend at the BBC which took employees away from making programmes and made them into managers. In doing so he reduced administration costs dramatically from 24% of total income to 15%. 
He gave a talk entitled: 'Did Labour fail in government?'



Psychologist and author

Oliver James is a world-renowned psychologist, author of the best-selling Affluenza (2009), as well as Home Office advisor and weekly Guardian columnist.
He discussed: '…how the postwar ambition of all parties has been to widen democracy, create meritocracy and promote feminism. In each case, these goals were horribly perverted, especially after 1979. We require a total rethink of what these goals are and what really would benefit us….the future could be very bright, if we accept that low or nil growth must be our economic reality and that a total realignment of values can accompany massive redistribution of wealth within selfish capitalist nations, and between the North and South, globally. Climate change makes this inevitable and possibly, sooner than we think”.




Dalrymple has written extensively on culture, art, politics, education, and medicine regularly drawing on his experiences as a physician and psychiatrist in Africa and the United Kingdom. He has had a fascinating career as a political journalist and full time Doctor. He was arrested as a spy in Gabon, sought after by the South African police for violating apartheid, infiltrated an English communist group, smuggled books to dissidents in Romania and arrested for photographing anti-government demonstrations in Albania to name a few things!
His work is regularly published in, The Times, The Observer, The Daily Telegraph, The Spectator, The Salisbury Review, The British Medical Journal and Axess magasin and is a contributing editor to the City Journal. He has often been recalled as one of the greatest essayists of his age and one of the world’s most inquisitive minds.
He frequently argues that the liberal and progressive views prevalent within Western intellectual circles minimise the responsibility of individuals for their own actions and undermine traditional mores, contributing to the formation within rich countries of an underclass afflicted by endemic violence, criminality, sexually transmitted diseases, welfare dependency, and drug abuse.
He advocates a restoration of what he calls traditional British virtues such as "prudence, thrift, industry, honesty, moderation, politeness, self-restraint".
His talk focused on the misconceptions of heroin addiction as an example of myth establishing as an orthodoxy.

Please reload

bottom of page