Iain Cameron's Diary
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2004-03-09 - 7:00 a.m.
After the management meeting I set off to Cambridge and drove into the city from the east off the M11 past Wolfson College which is the one Keith and I are working with on the Automotive Leaders project. Keith had given me the Gram Parsons video first thing. I drove down Barton Rd and parked behinds Cripps Court. James room was about as untidy as mine used to be – in fact I had forgotten quite untidy such rooms can get when your attention is elsewhere.
James had just finished an essay on Japanese elites in the 19th century – the final one in his non European history course which seems to have gone well with Polly, Chris and Penny’s friend. Next term he is doing 19th century European history which he knows quite a bit about already with someone from Trinity Hall. He is heavily involved in the JCR and one of his chums has just got elected to the Students’ Union (not the Cambridge Union). I had a cup of tea and we talked about Cambridge life which seems to suit him – eg the student drama productions which are either brilliant or banal with every producer seeking to be the new Sam Mendez. We also talked a bit about an article I had sent him revealing the US Army’s discontent about Iraq.
Then I drove across to Hughes Hall and bumped into Nick looking very smart. He took me up to a Common Room and introduced me to the President and gradually others turned up including Elizabeth Filkin who had been the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards and had got into trouble by taking her duties too seriously. I took the opportunity to float my interpretation of the law on corruption in public life which I think is not properly understood quite widely – and didn’t get corrected – so I will maintain that view for a while longer.
The College Bursar had been in the MoD and knew Richard Mottram quite well – the person who wanted to discipline me for talking to a journalist. The subject of the City Lecture was Government and the Media – given by Robert Phillis, CEO of the Guardian Media Group. Phillis had led an official enquiry into Government and the Media following the Moore-Sixsmith affair which has also involved Mottie. Phillis’main focus was on what could be done to improve the relationship between the Government and the media so that it was less destructive of public trust in the whole system. Part of his answer seems to be to give officials more power relative to the Ministers and Political Advisers – although he seemed quite sceptical as to whether his suggested reforms would be implemented properly.
I asked a question about the lessons that might be learned from institutions like the Ombudsman and the Civil Service Commissioners given that the problem was not that the Civil Service didn’t have a duty to explain things clearly – it was just that that duty kept getting forgotten. Phillis said that he thought the key factor was the leadership of the civil service. I could have said a lot more about that but didn’t.
Then we shuffled down the corridor for supper. I met up with some of Nick’s lawyer chums – one from Chicago whose father plays jazz on the cello. I said that Ron Carter also played cello. Apparently the top jazz cellist at the moment is Robert Bailey. I said that Nick could do a passable impression of McCoy Tyner – a fact which had escaped most of his legal associates. Apparently there is one club in Chicago where you can always hear experimental music – a kind of Knitting Factory equivalent. Yet another reason to visit the Windy City. I also had a long chat to a Polish lawyer – she said she collected early modern Polish paintings.
I had quite a long talk to the head of the Cambridge-MIT collaboration touching on the role of gallium compounds in automotive radar. I said I had driven a Jaguar with automotatic cruise control and he said that he thought that some of his discoveries went into the design of that unit. We talked a bit about Sir Robert May who was the last Government Chief Scientist and who had been very effective eg in getting Minisiters to face up to the truth about BSE. Apparently his successor is having trouble getting through on the potential destructiveness of global warming.
I also bumped into someone who knows a former DTI colleague, Stephen Pride, who studied Philosophy at the same time as I did. Apparently Stephen is taking things easy and devoting himself to chess. Stephen’s friend Nicola was also a colleague in the Engineering Division – I asked after them both.
Then I drove back to Leamington – not all that far away at all even though it’s the other side of the country.