Skip Navigation Links

Eton Societies Week 3


Caledonian Society: Practice with Wycombe Abbey (Eton)

*Cosmopolitan & Political Societies: Mr Ken Livingstone

*Simeon Society: Mr Chris Smart on missionary work in Uganda

Scientific Society: Dr Pete Vukusic on the science of colour

*Stockbroking Society: Mr Crispin Odey on success in the City

*Debating Society: “This House Would Legalise Cannabis”

*Keynes Society:
Mr Simon Henry (Shell PLC) on managing in troubled times

Slavonic Society:
Eight Eton Russianists on their Beijing to Moscow Train Expedition

*Wotton's Society: Dr Christopher Hamilton (KCL) on Simone Weil

Entrepreneurship Society:
Mr Kirill Makharinsky (OE) on founding YouNoodle

Events for which reports have been provided are marked by an asterisk.

Cosmopolitan and Political Societies: Ken Livingstone

The Cosmopolitan and Political Societies were lucky enough to host Ken Livingstone. As a former Mayor of London he has a wealth of knowledge and experience which he used in his talk to over 100 boys in Upper School.

Worldwide economics was the topic which Ken opened with. His ideas were largely focused on the percentage of GDP that a nation reinvested back into its own development, highlighting that because Britain had never risen above 20% in this aspect compared to about 25% for nations such as France and Germany that it was part of the reason our ‘schools and hospitals’ were not as well equipped. He also highlighted the shift in economic power from Western Europe and the USA to China, again highlighting that China’s reinvestment of over 40% of its GDP was the main reason for its rapid economic growth. This transfer of power from West to East was something that was going to make life a lot harder for our generation to succeed in business he claimed.

Moving on from this Ken went on to discuss the political effect of Global Warming, with strong reference to the UN climate summit in Copenhagen in December. Controversially he suggested that the target to stop the global rise in temperature at 2°C was unrealistic and that 4°C was much more likely. He went on to say that he expected China to make a significant U-turn in its environmental policy soon. (Perhaps not coincidentally the next day it was announced that China had finally agreed to lower their carbon emissions.)

With a nickname like ‘Red Ken’ it was expected that some of his strong left-wing views would certainly be an aspect of the meeting and he did not disappoint drawing some wry smiles from the audience for instances such as calling Lady Thatcher mad and also in reference to our Provost Lord Waldegrave, who, ironically, was the Junior Minister in charge of the removal of the Greater London Council in the 80s.

The Q and A section of the meeting was also successful with some tough questions being responded to with in-depth answers, although Ken did seem to evade some of the more sensitive geopolitical issues.

With a very large crowd and a very entertaining speaker it was an excellent way to start the academic year.

Guy MacInnes-Manby (PBS)


Simeon Society: Mr Chris Smart

With the privilege of Election Hall, there was an encouraging turn out of around 20 boys for the second Simeon Society meeting of the half.  The speaker was Eton’s own CJS describing his work as a missionary in Western Uganda during his recent sabbatical.  He drew some very striking comparisons between the everyday worries of a Ugandan and what we in Britain regard as important/difficult obstacles to overcome; they face death, hunger and caring for their family every day whilst many of our biggest concerns here at school are EW and Tardy book.

Theo Scott (PBS)

Stockbroking Society: Mr Crispin Odey

Crispin Odey spoke to the Stock Broking society on how he got into the city, his time there and what he thought would happen in the near economic future. His story was interesting, having intended to go into law before taking a summer job in the city where he fell in love with his profession. He talked us through the ups and downs of city life and what it is like to set up on your own as a fund manager, something probably relevant for those keen on finance at Eton.

Mr. Odey reasoned with us about the likelihood of a second downturn on the FTSE, but he remained unsure about the direction of the economy as a whole. His talk came to an end and he began to be asked some challenging and clever questions from our audience. Mr. Odey did not shy away from talking frankly about money and was often amusing. He also was keen to impress on the audience that what he had achieved is a difficult thing to do and that it is very time and energy consuming.

Overall the meeting was insightful and well-humoured, with Mr. Odey giving us a lesson on how to keep an audience’s attention with useful and clever analogies but also with facts and figures.

Roughly 55 people attended and the meeting ended at 10:00 pm.

Dominic Buscall (CJD)

Debating Society: “This House Would Legalise Cannabis”

The evening started with a quick warm-up debate, with four brave volunteers stepping forward from the crowd. The motion was "This House Would Rather Be Cool Than Clever". The proposition was Alex Whyte (CJD) and Nat Hobson (TEJN), with the opposition being Ed Maris (DMG) and Henry Wingfield (JDN). Whilst the debate was short and brief, it brought forth some good arguments, with varying ratios of style and substance. The motion was defeated.

The main event, however, was a debate of the motion that "This House Would Legalise Cannabis". The proposition were Bobby Leigh-Pemberton (JDN) and Charlie Merrett (TEJN), whilst the opposition were Keshav Dimri KS and Cristo Liautaud OS (RPDF). A quick vote at the beginning revealed that the house would have defeated the motion, with 34 for and 63 against. Leigh-Pemberton spoke first for the proposition, and his main points were "Control", whereby legalisation would lead to regulation, "Financial Gains", whereby HMRC would be able to reap considerable profit from legalisation and taxation, and "Prohibition", in that the current situation is absurd. Liautaud spoke first for the opposition, and made the points that cannabis is bad for your health, and society's health. He also mentioned that legalisation is a short-sighted measure, and that in fact it would be better to combat the sources of drugs as well as the end market. Merrett then spoke about how cannabis has influenced our culture to the good, citing the many great artists who have been inspired through its use, and went on to say that tobacco was more of a problem. Dimri then went on to mention the "gateway theory", suggesting that legalisation would lead to further damage to society. His argument was strengthened by a lengthy quote from Afroman's "I got high".

There were several questions from the floor, including two very well informed and passionate contributions by Ed Maris. It was pleasing to see members of the floor participating so readily and actively, in part (possibly) due to the smaller, bearpit-like atmosphere of the Marten Library, compared to Upper School.

The final vote was 80 for, with 17 against, and thus the motion was carried. Mr Macadam then delivered an appraisal of the evening’s performances.

Patrick Leigh-Pemberton KS

Wotton’s Society: Dr Christopher Hamilton (King’s College, London)

Dr. Christopher Hamilton kindly joined us last Thursday and addressed Wotton’s Society on the subject of Simone Weil – Longing for Purity. He began by focusing on her life:  her upbringing, her education, and her work. In particular, he explained how her factory work and religious experiences of Christ influenced her teaching on the notion of ‘malheur’ or affliction. However, Dr. Hamilton stressed that Weil believed in the positive side to suffering in exposing what she referred to as ‘the Void’ to be filled with God’s grace. Dr. Hamilton also touched upon Weil’s notions of impersonality and humans’ longing for the absolute good. In discussion, we covered many points such as Christ’s incarnation, the nature of Creation, and God’s grace. Dr. Hamilton particularly noted the quality of the questions he received. We thank him for his clear and engaging talk.

Cristo Liautaud OS (RPDF)

Keynes and Management Societies: Simon Henry (CFO of Shell)

Over ten years at Eton, I have been hugely fortunate to hear some tremendous speakers on a tremendously wide range of issues. Few have impressed me as much as Simon Henry, CFO of Shell plc in his talk to the Keynes and Management societies. His talk was beautifully paced and considered; the responses to questions were candid and rooted in a deep understanding of energy industries where volatility has become the norm. Future shareholder value will depend largely on successfully breaking the cycle of volatility.
Shell remains more or less the largest EU business by market capitalisation. Its strategy involves a long-term shift away from oil - to gas and to wider energy supplies including next generation biofuels and other renewables, but not nuclear, they have got their fingers burnt in the past perhaps. Simon Henry focused on the crucial importance of human capital in developing and maintaining a competitive edge - from the thousands of geologists employed across the world to those at the forefront of operations management and the new technologies needed to get energy supplies to the final customer.

The spend on research and development is vast. So too are the fixed costs of drilling for oil and gas - in the Gulf of Mexico it costs around $150million to put down one exploration well. Borrowing long term for capital projects that can extend over 40 and fifty years requires a complex and wide ranging analysis and assessment of as many external aspects of a project as can be covered. The TECOP approach was explained:

T - technical issues including those surround finding the most attractive locations for exploration
E - economic issues including choices over which markets to target and the prices to set
C - commercial aspects including agreements and possible joint ventures with many other commercial and government stakeholders in different countries
O - operations - usually the aspect over which a business like Shell has most control
P - politics, inescapable, often highly sensitive and unpredictable even in countries where ‘good governance’ is taken as the norm

Questions from the floor were exceptionally wide-ranging and covered some of the following issues:

Does Shell use collaborative strategies to harness the human capital of geologists and other experts who do not necessarily work for Shell?
How likely is a liquid gas cartel in the next few years?
How important is nuclear energy to Iran? - Iran may be better served with nuclear power, allowing her to export her oil and gas
Why is Shell in favour of cap and trade rather than a carbon tax?
Is Shell’s multi-million pound sponsorship with Ferrari worth it?  Might the money be better spent elsewhere?
Where next for oil prices? Answer - in the short term, look at all of the oil tankers waiting outside Rotterdam, prices likely to fall further before they pick up again
What are the minimum internal rates of return that Shell looks for before finally committing to a project .... in excess of 10%

For students of business strategy this talk was an illuminating and fascinating insight into the massively expensive and complex deals that a multinational such as Shell engages with on a daily basis.
Our next meeting is on Thursday 1st October with Chris Coleridge, one of the Founders of V-Water.



DATE POSTED: 01 October 2009

Go Back

Articles for: 2009, 2020

Click here to view our news archive