Introduction, Camilla Cavendish
My conversation with Camilla Cavendish took place before the coronavirus – and hence in another world. Yet despite reminding us of cherished, past habits like routine trans-Atlantic travel – resident in London, she is a fellow at Harvard, and normally flies over every six weeks – the discussion was remarkably prescient.
This should not be surprising: Camilla is a high-flying author, journalist, policy expert and – as Baroness – a parliamentarian in the British House of Lords. Currently a columnist for The Financial Times, chair of the 2013 Cavendish Review into health care in Britain and previously with the Number 10 Policy Unit under Prime Minister David Cameron, she is the author of Extra Time: 10 Lessons for an Ageing World, an exceptional book looking at the implications of our increased life expectancy.
As Camilla – an old classmate of mine from Oxford – explained from the outset, her journalistic, policy and humanitarian passions have coalesced into a specialization on public health, which could hardly be more urgent and essential in these challenging times. When Harvard Medical School asked her to give a lecture on journalism and public policy, all three strands came together, and as she says, “I suddenly felt as if my life made sense almost for the first time in my career.”
Back in November 2019 when we spoke, anticipating the British election and with Brexit still unresolved, we could not anticipate the global turmoil we face today. Yet Camilla was excoriating about US health care – facing “catastrophic” health issues, “shocking” in the number of people without coverage, and “extremely expensive and not saving people’s lives”. She hailed the NHS as Britain’s Holy Grail, with its admirable universal care, but unequipped for preventing illness and “sagging under the weight of incredible, exponentially increasing demand”.
Camilla emphasized the threat of a determined, despotic China, and bemoaned America’s retreat from the values it has historically sought to project around the world. Against rising strains of populism in both the US and the UK, she underlined her faith that a pragmatic, “more rational and evidence-based” politics would emerge, driven by increasing engagement from both business leaders and the emerging generation.
So many of Camilla’s remarks presaged the Covid crisis. But it was not all policy and politics, as we discussed the pleasure (for her, not me!) of writing, the vital importance of exercise, her favorite music (see below), and her guilty reading pleasure (you’ll have to see the full interview for that).
When I get the chance to follow up with her, I’m looking forward to asking Camilla to provide an update on her views on the impact of the pandemic and the murder of George Floyd and on the prospects for political regeneration from that.
See below for a number of links relating to Camilla’s work and interests.
Link to Transcript here:
Financial Times Column
Extract from Extra Time:
Purchase Extra Time:
https://dauntbooks.co.uk/shop/books/extra-time/ (break the Amazon habit, why not!)
Rachmaninoff’s Second Concerto:
Ikigai & the Language of Longevity
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