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The University of Southampton

Sir Jon Day - Turning back the march of folly Event

Distinguished Speaker Series
18:00 - 19:00
23 October 2019
University of Southampton Highfield Campus

Event details

Turning back the march of folly. How can governments be prevented from pursuing perverse policies against their – and our - interests?

As we reach one of the major Brexit turning points, Sir Jon Day, latterly Chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee, updates the concept of ‘folly’ by governments to explain the extraordinary events we are living through, concentrating in particular on defence, security and intelligence.

Sir Jon will consider the challenges faced by government under six questions:

  • What kind of country do we want to be?
  • What threats will we face?
  • Do we have the right government machinery to inform and take decisions?
  • Should we prioritise national or multilateral security?
  • Does nuclear deterrence still work?
  • Do our national myths help or hinder today’s decision makers?

The eminent historian Barbara Tuchman used folly to describe the self-destruction of leaders from the fall of Troy through the Reformation, Britain’s loss of America and America’s defeat in Viet Nam. Sir Jon brings the concept into the modern world, starting with the decisions taken by David Cameron’s coalition.

But his main focus is on the decisions any and all British governments will face in tackling the consequences of Brexit in the coming years. And in doing so to roll back the march of folly in Whitehall, Westminster and Downing Street.

Speaker details

Sir Jonathan (Jon) Day joined the Civil Service in 1979 and spent almost 40 years working for 5 governments and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in the fields of defence, security and intelligence.

His career highlights included the Falklands conflict, the opening up of Eastern Europe after the fall of the Soviet Union, organizing the 1998 Strategic Defence Review and serving as chief of staff to Lord Robertson during his time as Secretary General of NATO. Thereafter Sir Jon was the MOD’s Policy Director and Second Permanent Secretary, and Chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee during the Cameron coalition. He retired and was knighted in 2016.

Since then Sir Jon has worked with a number of academic institutions including Southampton. He also writes about the British civil wars and supports the Parkinson’s UK charity. He contributed to the Brexit remain lobby during the first EU referendum but was dispirited about the handling of the campaign. This is his first public intervention since then.

Watch a recording of the event

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