Several of my favourite posts have been "live blogging" from interesting conferences I have been lucky enough to attend. Today could have been an excellent example but for two problems. Firstly, the topic was the political and economic situation in Russia. As regular readers know, I never write about modern Russia. I am a guest here and it would simply not be polite. Besides, this blog is about civil liberties in Britain.
Secondly, I was chairing the discussion, which would have made live blogging tricky.
Bruce Clark, the editor of the international section of the Economist, spoke to the "leadership forum" I am attending in St Petersburg. He was the Moscow correspondent of The Times in the early 1990's and has been visiting Russia regularly ever since. He has met several key figures in the region (and was particularly interesting in private on the subject of President Sakashivili of Georgia). He wrote "An Empire's New Clothes" in 1995, a book in which he controversially predicted that Russia (contrary to the then general view) would both prosper and use its prosperity to reestablish its position in geopolitics. He spoke at length, without notes, but with great enthusiasm for a topic he knows well; setting it in an historical context for an audience of businesspeople from around the world. He also gave an interesting answer to the question which puzzles so many of us living and working here, namely why is Russia not (and why has she never been) the richest and most powerful nation in the world, despite having every necessary economic blessing?
I am a subscriber to The Economist and - while it doesn't get everything right - am generally in agreement with its world view. It was a pleasure to meet Bruce and to listen to one of the voices in the blend I so enjoy every week. When I met one of my blogging friends last year he told me of his frustration that, while like all of us he often struggles to find something interesting to write about, he could never use his most interesting material, because he works on Ministry of Defence contracts and has signed the Official Secrets Act. Today, though my restrictions are self-imposed, I know how he feels.