I was honoured to be one of the speakers at a breakfast event hosted by Editorial Intelligence yesterday morning. They call the events "Thought for the day" and they invite two people to speak for 5 or so minutes each on topics of their choice. Then the other invitees (there were about 30 of them drawn from various sectors of the media and business) get to respond and make points or ask questions.
Friday, 2 October 2009
I had decided to speak about the future of newspapers (a topic
close to my heart). The other speaker turned out to be Zac Goldsmith, Conservative PPC for Richmond and committed environmental activist. He was there ostensibly to talk about his latest book "The Constant Economy: How to Build a Stable Society" but he actually talked about environmental issues more broadly and outlined some of his policy positions.
I was already slightly charmed as talking beforehand Zac explained that he had read some posts on my blog and mentioned my piece on the future of newspapers as one that he had enjoyed. When I said I was talking about that at the event he was pleased and said he would make sure that he linked the two together when he spoke, which he did. His view is that one of the big barriers to conquering environmental problems is the media and in a more democratised media, like the one I predict there would be less vested interests getting in the way of serious coverage and debate on the issue.
As I usually find with these sort of events it was very enjoyable and there was a vigorous discussion afterwards where both mine and Zac's positions on the subjects we discussed were tested and picked apart by some excellent contributions. I think I held my own OK and I did learn something new (about how hyperlinks are being used with some paid content - I may come back to this in a future blogpost). Unsurprisingly, Zac was very strong defending his position and carried it off with the sort of graceful charm that I will likely never achieve (although to be fair he has been born and bred for it!).
The thing that struck me most during the event though was that I really could not find anything that Zac said that I disagreed with. I spent much of the time when he was speaking nodding. I had to stop myself eventually for fear of looking like a nodding dog on the back shelf of a car! I myself am passionate about the environment and it was heartening to hear a Conservative candidate with such strong views on this subject.
One thing I did ask him during the debate was whether he agreed with many of the policy positions of Susan Kramer (Richmond Lib Dem MP and his opponent in the upcoming election) to which he responded yes. Susan has strong environment credentials and has made opposition to the expansion of Heathrow one of the defining issues of her time as an MP so far. It is a shame that two passionate campaigners on the environment are fighting for the same seat and only one of them can win. Of course I hope it is Susan.
Despite this, I expect Mr Goldsmith will one day make an excellent MP. In fact if more Tory MPs were like him I would be a lot less concerned about the likelihood of a Conservative government after the next election.
PS: There will be some filmed footage of the event as well as a podcast which I will link to when they are available.