Chris Patten

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Latest by Chris Patten


Who will rescue the rest of us?

SYDNEY: The rescue of the 33 Chilean miners, from what was feared would be their tomb, gave the world something to cheer about. Hope has not, after all, become a redundant virtue in the twenty-first century. But, looking around us today, there do not seem to be many reasons for optimism elsewhere. The world lurches …

Chris Patten

A Papal success

LONDON: To the surprise of many in the media — at home and abroad — Pope Benedict XVI’s just completed visit to Britain was an outstanding success. As a Roman Catholic and as the person asked by Prime Minister David Cameron to supervise government arrangements for the visit, I was naturally delighted. But, I was …

Chris Patten

A Papal success

LONDON: To the surprise of many in the media — at home and abroad — Pope Benedict XVI’s just completed visit to Britain was an outstanding success. As a Roman Catholic and as the person asked by Prime Minister David Cameron to supervise government arrangements for the visit, I was naturally delighted. But, I was …

Chris Patten

Taking August seriously

TOULOUSE: Europe’s holiday month of August is no time for serious politics. The world and its worries are meant to close down while Europeans repose. I usually spend the month with my family at our old converted farmhouse in southwestern France. It is the deepest countryside. As I write this under a vine in my …

Chris Patten

The Gaza prison

GAZA CITY: It is easier to enter a maximum-security prison than it is to enter the strip of land — 45 kilometers long and maybe eight wide — that is home to Gaza’s 1.5 million Palestinians. Surrounded by a forbidding wall, watchtowers, and deadly buffer zones, I entered with a hard-to-obtain visa at the Erez …

Chris Patten

America's oil-spill nationalism

LONDON: American exceptionalism, when it runs rampant, is a tsunami to be avoided. The oil company BP is discovering that right now. The environmental disaster destroying seaside communities around the Gulf of Mexico and killing off marine life is a globally important tragedy. BP has to take its sizeable share of the blame. So, presumably, …

Chris Patten

The Earth Moves in Britain

LONDON: Volcanoes have consequences — and I’m not just thinking about the chaos caused to air travel by Iceland’s unpronounceable last eruption (known to the Pentagon as E-15). In 1783, a volcano in Iceland spewed so much ash into the atmosphere that the entire northern hemisphere was cooled for almost three years. This resulted in …

Chris Patten

Britain votes and reality waits

LONDON: I don’t mean to sound as though I am bragging, but the last time the Conservative Party won an election in Britain was 1992, when John Major was Prime Minister. The chairman of the party at the time, running the winning campaign, was me. We won the election, but I lost my own race …

Chris Patten

India shines on

MUMBAI: Every day, a small Japanese jet brings another 60 businessmen from Tokyo to sniff out new commercial opportunities in Mumbai and the heart of the Indian economy. Naturally, there may be a touch of geopolitical calculation about this. As Japan grows increasingly nervous about China’s rise, the case for increasing investment in the other …

Chris Patten

Is China overplaying its hand?

LONDON: Remember the G-2? America’s financial difficulties and foreign entanglements, together with China’s economic ascent, led many last year to envisage the emergence of a sort of global condominium between the two countries. The G-8 had morphed by necessity into the G-20, which, whenever it really mattered, would shed its zero: the United States and …

Chris Patten

A cool head for the hottest issues

LONDON: Reading Barack Obama’s “Dreams from My Father, the US president’s beautifully written reflections on his early life and identity, most people are struck by his cool and intellectual approach. This is not to say that he is unemotional. Obama can rage and weep. But he rarely seems to act on the basis of raw …

Chris Patten

Bad money, good Money

LONDON: The British comic genius Spike Milligan once observed that he would love to have the opportunity to discover that money wouldn’t make him happy. Big lottery winners, it is claimed, end up miserable, though real-life research suggests that they are as happy as you and I would be with a check for a million …

Chris Patten

Europe's Vision Free Leadership

LONDON: The selection of Herman van Rompuy as President of the European Union’s Council of Ministers, and of Lady Catherine Ashton as the EU’s foreign policy chief, surely underlines the extent to which member states are in the driver’s seat in the EU. They manage its institutions in their own interest. The EU is no …

Chris Patten

Grumpy old men

LONDON: Having reached pensionable age, I qualify to be a grumpy old man. I should be boring my children, and the students at Oxford University where I am Chancellor, with grumbles about how everything is going to the dogs. But that is not quite how I see things. I went to university myself in 1962. …

Chris Patten

America's Groucho Marxists

LONDON: Groucho Marx has always been my favorite Marxist. One of his jokes goes to the heart of the failure of the ideology – the dogmatic religion – inflicted on our poor world by his namesake, Karl. “Who are you going to believe, Groucho once asked, “me, or your own eyes? For hundreds of millions …

Chris Patten

History, used and abused

LONDON: In her brilliant book, “The Uses and Abuses of History the historian Margaret Macmillan tells a story about two Americans discussing the atrocities of September 11, 2001. One draws an analogy with Pearl Harbor, Japan’s attack on the US in 1941. His friend has no idea as to what this means. “You know, the …

Chris Patten

The Obama Effect

LONDON: In the last two months, I have been in eight American cities – Boston, New York, Washington, Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle. Phew! I am left with several sentiments. First, if you have to travel from city to city in the United States, you would do yourself a favor if you …

Chris Patten

A tale of two elections

LONDON: Individual elections do not always enhance democracy – a useful reminder that the ballot box is only one part, albeit a central one, in any free, plural society. Of course, there are also magnificent examples of elections that strengthen both the stability and the institutions of a community. We have just witnessed an example …

Chris Patten

The cost of Dick Cheney

LONDON: George W. Bush has started work on his memoirs. Count to ten before you respond. The autobiographies of political leaders are not a very elevated literary form. First, few leaders write well, though there are exceptions, like Nehru, Churchill, and de Gaulle. No wonder that most of them employ a “ghost, like the one …

Chris Patten

The panthers of identity politics

LONDON: I was in Jordan, that beautiful oasis of calm and moderation in a difficult and dangerous neighborhood, when I first heard the news about the murder of two British soldiers and a Catholic policeman by dissident republican terrorists in Northern Ireland. We had looked out across what Christians call the Holy Land from the …

Chris Patten

Why bipartisanship is good politics

LONDON: Bipartisanship seems to have taken a drubbing in Washington since President Barack Obama got to the White House. Like most recent American presidents, Obama campaigned on a promise to work with his political opponents for the greater good of the country. Bill Clinton said much the same thing before he was elected, and then …

Chris Patten

Blind in Gaza and Jerusalem

LONDON: I spent the New Year in Sydney, watching the fireworks above the iconic bridge welcome in 2009. The explosions over Gaza that night were not intended to entertain, but rather to break Hamas and discredit it in the eyes of Palestinians. It was the latest resort to terrible violence in order to resolve how …

Chris Patten

The New Age divide

LONDON: So what does 2009 hold in store for us? As ever, the unpredictable – a terrorist atrocity or a rash decision by a national leader – will take its toll. But much of what happens tomorrow will be a result of history. In the last century, the world’s population increased four-fold, and the number …

Chris Patten

Living in history

LONDON: I recently took part in a public debate with Paul Keating, Australia’s former prime minister. He is an interesting man, a genuine intellectual driven by his inner demons both to flay those who pay insufficient credit to his transformational role in Australian politics and to expose what he regards as waffle and myths. This …

Chris Patten

The American leader we need

LONDON: Around the world, America’s presidential election campaign has attracted as much attention as domestic political controversies in each of our own countries. The interest the world has taken in America’s vote is the best example of America’s soft power, and a lesson in democracy from the world’s only superpower. If only we could all …

Chris Patten

The Palin Non-Factor

LONDON: Senator John McCain is a genuine American hero. He was a brave airman, with a fine war record. Unlike the so-called “chicken hawks who avoided service in the Vietnam War themselves but could barely wait to send young Americans into Iraq to fight, McCain’s life is not at odds with his politics. In the …

Chris Patten

Putin's gold-medal war

LONDON: What does the “Olympics War, otherwise known as Russia’s invasion of Georgia, really mean? The war itself was, of course, predicable and predicted. Its results are equally clear. First, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin remains in unambiguous charge in Moscow. He may play a “good cop-bad cop routine with President Dmitri Medvedev. But the bad …

Chris Patten

Two and a Half Cheers for the Mediterranean Union

Maybe it is time to be a bit more generous to French President Nicolas Sarkozy and look at the outcome of what he does rather than the way that he does it. The original launch of the Mediterranean Union almost sank the whole enterprise. Appearing to speak without giving the issue much thought, Sarkozy initially …

Chris Patten

The world after Bush

There is a marvelous painting by Brueghel in the Brussels art gallery. The British poet, W.H. Auden, was sufficiently impressed to write a poem about it. The painting shows Icarus, his wings melted, plunging to a watery grave. No one seems very interested. The world goes on, the peasants continue plowing their fields, getting on …

Chris Patten

Bread and Bush-Bashing

I feel a little sorry for President Bush. Whatever his other many failings, he has a pretty good record on aid to poor countries, particularly in healthcare. True to form, he recently announced a big increase in US food aid – good for the hungry poor and good for American farmers. This was a faster …

Chris Patten