What Next? Surviving the Twenty-First Century by Chris Patten - review by Peter Oborne

Peter Oborne

The Thing About…

What Next? Surviving the Twenty-First Century


Allen Lane/The Penguin Press 490pp £25

If you go into the Garrick Club on any weekday from noon onwards there’s a fair chance you’ll run into Ken Clarke, the former Conservative Cabinet minister, at the bar. He’ll be sounding off, giving his views about the great issues of day, backed up by ample reminiscences of when he himself ran the country.

Ken Clarke is pretty good value, so long as you don’t mind hearing the same anecdote repeated time after time. Essentially this book is Chris Patten, the former Cabinet minister, sounding off. He has views on a whole range of subjects, and information to impart.

The title – What Next? – is misleading. Patten is not a prophet. There is little attempt to reinterpret conventional wisdom, let alone the world. One of the great questions about the twenty-first century is whether the United States of America will collapse as a great power. Patten does not attempt to answer it. Another is whether radical Islam will take over large parts of the world, an assumption that lies at the heart of British and American foreign policy. Patten does not try to answer that either.

This book is really a series of discrete, fairly well-researched essays about some of the

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