Published in January 2011 issue of Prospect Magazine
There couldn’t be a more exhilarating time to become editor of Prospect. Thanks to David Goodhart, now editor at large, for a warm and gracious handover—and for his report from Nick Clegg’s Sheffield seat, as Lib Dem ministers begin their “walk through fire” over tuition fees. I’ve been asked how I will take Prospect forward. That’s easy. We live in extraordinary times. Prospect should do what it’s always done: ask the big questions about our culture and our future. And we should answer them, with wit, a sense of fun, and directness. I’m a firm advocate of worldliness: of making the best judgement possible at any time, knowing that it may well have to be revised, and not disdaining compromise. As Nick Clegg says in our interview, the protests over fees are the price for the Lib Dems of living in the “real world” of government. What are those questions? Well, in Britain, it’s how to move ahead in an era of no-money politics, as George Osborne puts it, in making his case for public-sector reform. The strength of feeling on fees is understandable. Prospect has covered both sides of the argument. But opponents have to explain how, without higher fees, Britain can afford to keep its universities world-class. I’m glad to see, a decade on from 9/11, that the threat of terrorism, while impossible to dismiss, is no longer dominating policy in the UK and US at the expense of other crucial issues (see Prospects for 2011). Shami Chakrabarti argues, in a view I share, that Britain should drop control orders for terrorist suspects, in line with both coalition parties’ campaign pledges. We’ve asked whether Hillary Clinton can rescue President Obama (yes, she can help a lot, if she wants). It’s less clear that Obama can save the US. WikiLeaks revealed the US’s efforts and enduring influence in the world’s troublespots—and the ineptitude of a bureaucracy that gave 3m officials such digital access. It’s astonishing that the US got so far through two wars before someone copied the files onto a memory stick. Does WikiLeaks mark the end of privacy? Yes, as I see it, and I refuse to be distressed: the good outweighs the bad, and the change is unstoppable. You’ll have gathered that I’m an optimist. That’s not to dismiss the world’s problems, but to credit people with some ability to solve them. For all the turmoil, the world is getting richer (even if the eurozone isn’t). Much of the benefit is going to the poorest. On that note, happy new year.