In a recent article on ‘speaking frankly’ Chatham House director Robin Niblett invited the Financial Times correspondent Annie Berglof into his London home for an interview.
Revealing that the most common question he is asked is “What is the Chatham House rule?” he explains it is to speak frankly without name or affiliation identification but for content to be used publicly – “It’s a byword for confidentiality.” The rule encourages open and free discussion without political repercussion.
Robin discusses the history of Chatham House; from being inspired by the informal, honest talks surrounding Versailles Treaty negotiations in 1919, to taking residence in the London building from which the name comes and the creation of its rule in 1927.
Interestingly, Robin compares US think tanks which are “primarily focused on providing advice to the US government” to Chatham House which is much smaller and has no endowment. He emphasises their global focus – Chatham House is a place to discuss international issues, in fact many emerging countries are attracted to the programme of talks.
Regarding recent security breaches, Robin warns that there is a danger of receiving mass information in this way, that although this appears to expose government thoughts, it has no content or context – “Its a mess” he claims. In contrast, “at Chatham House information is put into context… we can apply judgement.” He believes that European governments need to be more truthful with their citizens about future hurdles.
The ultimate aim of Chatham House is to be a “safe space to start the conversation” Robin concludes.
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The third annual Chatham House-YouGov Survey was launched this week with a lively panel discussion including Paddy Ashdown, Jonathan Powell and Pauline Neville-Jones, moderated by Chatham House Director, Robin Niblett.
The survey, designed to analyse British attitudes to the UK’s international priorities, revealed much about popular sentiment towards British membership of the EU. 57% of the general public want a vote on EU membership, with 49% saying they would vote to leave.
The survey also revealed a disconnect between popular and elite attitudes towards the issue. Only 42% of ‘opinion formers’ said the government should commit to holding a referendum, while only 27% of the same group would vote to leave the Union.
Much of the discussion focused on the need for a coherent government vision to reconcile this divide, with Paddy Ashdown in particular lamenting the lack of leadership shown by the Coalition. It’s a pity not enough of us voted for him, he said mischievously.
To find out more about these speakers, or to book them for your conference or event, please contact Leo von Bülow-Quirk at email@example.com or call 0044 (0) 20 7792 8000.
John Zogby, legendary US pollster, was in very fine fettle last night at Chatham House, giving a brilliant summary of how opinion in the key demographic groups would influence the November elections.
Relaxing afterwards over nibbles and a delicious glass of Gewurtztraminer at the LeMeridien Hotel on Piccadily, we chatted about his long career working with the likes of Michael Bloomberg and Al Gore. He also, perhaps surprisingly, pointed out that today US political polling takes up relatively little of his time. He is particularly engaged these days studying consumer behaviour in the US and across the world, and has been doing a lot of work on how political opinion in Tunisia and Egypt is shaping the post-Arab Spring landscape in the Middle East.
For more information on how to book John Zogby for an event, please call Alex Hickman on +44 (0) 20 7792 8004.