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Report on Corpus Christi College's recent panel event: 'On the Brink'

last modified Nov 05, 2015 10:37 AM

Report by Corpus Christi College

Cambridge was buzzing with activity and full of alumni, guests and members of the University and colleges on Friday 16 October, the first day of Cambridge's launch of its biggest ever fundraising campaign, and nowhere more than Corpus. We held two spectacular events during the day; in the early afternoon Professor Chris Andrew gave a fascinating lecture on 500 Years of Cambridge Spies, bringing the story into the current era with intriguing revelations about the espionage activities of Corpus alumnus, Cedric Belfrage.

Later in the day the McCrum theatre began filling up until it was standing room only. Corpus Fellow Commoner Tim Sebastian expertly moderated an impressive panel of experts in a war game, On the Brink, in which a Russian plane invades British air space and is shot down after attempts to communicate with the pilot fail. The panel, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, former Foreign Secretary and Defence Secretary, Sir Richard Dearlove, former head of MI6, Stephen Evans, former NATO assistant Secretary General for Operations and Jonathan Haslam, former Chief Press Secretary to John Major, were challenged to decide what action to take in the immediate aftermath to avoid war with Russia. Tim kept the pace fast with interjections about developments in the field, in particular from the Kremlin, and pushed the panel to respond. Students who had been involved from the beginning acted as a Parliament and asked awkward questions of the panellists until at the end the audience was asked to give a vote of no confidence. The fact that the vote was defeated says a lot about the persuasive performance of our panellists.

The panel were then questioned by the audience, many of whom had an involvement in the military, diplomatic service or a connection with Russia and the Baltic states and this extended the narrative into new and interesting territory. Finally everyone moved to the Master's Lodge for drinks and then into Hall for a grand dinner. Students, alumni, guests, staff and Fellows filled the Hall and continued the discussion with the enthusiasm of an audience highly charged and excited by the scenario they had just witnessed.