Learn from these ‘interesting times’, BBC’s Evan Davis tells audience at QE

Pupils and teachers turned out in force for a talk at the School by political journalist and TV presenter Evan Davis.

Organised by Year 12 pupil Adrian Burbie under the auspices of QE’s Politics Society, the lunchtime lecture drew large numbers to the Main Hall.

Mr Davis, who is a main presenter of BBC’s Newsnight, the host of the Dragons’ Den series and a former presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, delivered his talk in his trademark passionate yet erudite, jargon-free style.

""Dragons’ Den takes up only about ten days of his year, yet his appearances on the programme are largely responsible for him being recognised on the street. He therefore began by pre-empting the question which has proved most popular when he has visited other schools – his favourite ‘dragon’ was Deborah Meaden, he said. However, his audience at QE did not, in fact, ask any questions about the show, preferring instead to focus on economic and world issues.

A trained economist whose stock-in-trade is analysis of the global situation, Mr Evans advised the boys to take particular interest in the current economic picture: he told them that we are living through very interesting times – and not all periods of history are either as interesting or as troubling.

""During his talk, he gave a run-down of recent decades, beginning with the days prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 when a full half of Europe was cut off and one never met anyone from Poland. We were living in a sort of ‘golden age’ by about 1992, when many nations were in the European Union and tensions over issues such as varying levels of economic development and the pressures of migration had yet to surface.

Two seismic events– 9/11 and the economic crisis of 2007/08 – changed that world, and we were still living with the consequences of them, he said.

In economic terms, the biggest shift over the last 30 years had been the rise of China, where tens of millions had gone from eking out a basic subsistence to having a disposable income and living in homes with luxuries such as TVs and computers.

""In his wide-ranging lecture, Mr Davis also turned his attention to migration. This was now occurring from troubled and impoverished countries to stable and developed ones, not just because people were fleeing from war zones, but as a consequence of globalisation in general: with the advent of technology such as smartphones, it was possible for people everywhere to get a glimpse of life in any other part of the world.

Even the old political order, with its binary division between left and right, had changed. Politics was now more about, on the one hand, parties and candidates who represented the status quo and, on the other, those who represented ‘outsiders’ and offered a different and more populist standpoint. They did not split down left/right lines, but represented popular views of groups in society, Mr Evans said. Politicians such as David Cameron and Hilary Clinton were seen as part of the former category, while Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, Jeremy Corbyn and Nigel Farage were all examples of the latter. The question was, despite the passions such outsiders raised, would they gain enough votes across the entire electorate to be voted in?

""And Mr Davis said he thought that even if Britain stayed in the EU, it was not a simple matter of ‘in or out’. There were at least three different types of European state at the moment as represented by: Germany – fully in the EU and Eurozone; the UK – not in the Eurozone and wanting various opt-outs, and Norway – not in the EU but having various agreements with EU states. Therefore, the picture was not as black and white as might first appear, he concluded.