Question Time 2nd November 2023
Jeremy Quin (Conservative)
Nick Thomas-Symonds (Labour)
Marie van der Zyl (Board of Deputies of British Jews)
Mustafa Suleyman (AI Entrepreneur)
Camilla Cavendish (Financial Times)
Venue: Chipping Campden
After two weeks behind wartime enemy lines in the Londoni and Bradfordi stans, La Bruce and the Question Time panel have sprinted across no man’s land to the relative safety of rural Gloustershire’s Chipping Campden.
Jeremy Quin has served as the Conservative Member of Parliament for Horsham since 2015. Throughout his political career, the 55-year-old has held various ministerial positions, such as Minister of State for Crime, Policing and Fire, Minister of State for Defence Procurement, and Comptroller of the Household.
Last October he was appointed as Paymaster General and Minister for the Cabinet Office, a position he assumed after Liz Truss was replaced by Rishi Sunak as Prime Minister. In his role as Minister for the Cabinet Office, Quin is responsible for overseeing the government’s efficiency programme, civil service modernization, and Cabinet Office business planning.
Despite campaigning for the Remain side in the Brexit referendum, Quin later voted for the UK to leave the EU. He is married to Joanna. Before his political career, Quin worked in corporate finance for 25 years.
Nick Thomas-Symonds, not his real name (and not double-barrelled, Thomas was his mother’s maiden name), Nicklaus T. Symonds is the Labour MP for Torfaen and has been since 2015.
Before his political career, he was a chancery and commercial barrister and a tutor at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, from where he graduated with a degree in PPE. As a reminder of the bubble nature of British politics, his PPE contemporaries at Oxford included Rishi Sunak and Anneliese Dodds. Nicklaus has authored books on political figures such as Clement Attlee, Nye Beavan, and Harold Wilson.
In 2021, he was appointed Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade. He has also held various positions within the Labour Party, including Shadow Minister for Work and Pensions, Shadow Solicitor-General, Shadow Minister for Security, and Shadow Home Secretary. He currently lives in Abersychan with his wife, daughters, son and dog.
Marie van der Zyl is the 48th president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the second female president in the organization’s history. Not her real name, Marie Sarah Cohen was first elected in May 2018 and then re-elected in May 2021. Besides this, she also serves as the Vice President of the World Jewish Congress.
One of the Middlesex van der Zyls, the 57-year-old has a background in employment law, having graduated in Law from Liverpool Polytechnic. In 2021, she notably successfully brought a case against the BBC for misreporting an altercation on Oxford Street during Chanukah.
She is known for her support of Israel and has been ranked as one of the most influential Jews.
In 2018 the Jerusalem Post ranked Marie the world’s 40th most influential Jew but in the Post’s latest league table, the Mill Hill resident has slipped to 47th place, which presumably puts her close to the top of the Jewish League One. There she is sandwiched between Rhoda Smolow, the national president of Hadassah, and Evan Gershkovich of the Wall Street Journal.
Interestingly the Post claims the world’s most influential Jew to be Mr Sam Altman, the CEO of an American artificial intelligence organisation. Hmm.
During the pandemic, Ms van der Zyl spearheaded a campaign to protect Jewish and Muslim burial practices by putting their funerals to the front of the queue. Somehow the High Court managed to rule that Jews and Muslims waiting in turn was discriminatory.
Despite this and despite living in a North London Jewish enclave, representing the interests of Jews, and being married twice both times to other Jews, in 2023 she was awarded the OBE for ‘services to integration.’
Marie’s actress ex-mother-in-law Nikki provides voices for the German versions of James Bond films.
In a measure of the bubble nature of Question Time, Nick Thomas-Symonds and Marie van der Zyl were together on the corresponding episode of QT exactly three years ago.
Mustafa Suleyman is prominent in the world of artificial intelligence. He is perhaps best known as the co-founder of DeepMind, an AI company that was later acquired by Google, where he served as the head of applied AI. After his tenure at DeepMind, Suleyman joined Greylock Partners and co-founded Inflection AI, a new AI lab venture, where he currently serves as the CEO. Inflection AI is responsible for developing a chatbot named “Pi”, which stands for Personal Intelligence.
Suleyman’s contributions to the field of AI were recognized in 2019 when he was awarded the CBE for his influence in the UK technology sector. He is a Senior Fellow at The Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and is a non-executive director of The Economist. His expertise makes him a sought-after speaker at conferences and virtual events.
But something’s not right. Beyond the understanding of those mega computers and giant algorithms, a comet hangs in the sky above QT Review HQ. A murder of crows sits on a branch in our courtyard. As the sun set before tonight’s QT, a black cat was heard meowing towards a three-quarter moon.
Mustafa Suleyman was born in August 1984 and claims to be the son of a Syrian taxi driver and English NHS nurse. He grew up in ‘relative poverty’ off London’s Caledonian Road. Aged 16 he claims his parents separated and both moved abroad leaving himself and his younger brother to fend for themselves. However, when old enough to vote less than two years later, his address given on the UK Electoral Registry is a comfortable North London family home currently valued at just shy of three-quarters of a million pounds.
A straight-A’s student, after leaving Barnet’s exclusive Queen Elizabeth grammar school, Mustafa took a place at Mansfield College, Oxford, to study philosophy and theology. After dropping out after a year, we find Mustafa working as a human rights policy officer for the then Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, and helping to start a Muslim youth helpline.
By age 23, he was a co-founder and partner of Reos Partners, a consultancy who,
“…partner with multi-stakeholder groups who are seeking to make systemic change on pressing societal issues. These groups include but aren’t limited to governments, intergovernmental agencies, businesses, foundations, and civil society organisations.
We co-design tailored and adaptive strategies through collaborative and creative approaches to enable diverse stakeholders to make big, fast, and fair results, together.”
According to their web-site;
In 2020, MSF Southern Africa [medical NGO Medicine Sans Frontiers] embarked on a journey with Reos Partners to dismantle the structural racism in their organisation…The process began with a series of workshops where people were encouraged to share experiences and thoughts on structural racism…MSF has appointed a Dismantling Structural Racism Reference Group, which includes members from Reos Partners and MSF staff.
Bandaging the leppers’ wounds can wait! Added to which, what has any of this got to do with AI?
After three years as a partner with Reos, in 2010 Mustafa co-founded an artificial intelligence company called DeepMind. As Puffins now realise, Mr Suleyman does not have a background in science or even a degree in any subject. However, his two partners in DeepMind were both bona fide tech geniuses.
Demis Hassabis CBE taught himself to play chess by age 4 and how to program a computer by 13. He passed his first A-Level at 15. Too young to take up his place at Cambridge University, Demmis filled his time developing the multi-million-selling ‘Theme Park’ computer simulation.
Eventually leaving Queens College Cambridge with a double first, he embarked on a career of doing genius things including completing a Ph.D. in cognitive neuroscience. His thesis entitled ‘Neural processes underpinning episodic memory,’ is too brainy for Amazon customers. Unfortunately for once we can’t compare sales to those of the Marquis de Sade.
The third co-founder, Shane Legg CBE, is another genius. His award-winning thesis ($10,000 prize from the Canadian Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence) is entitled ‘Machine Super Intelligence’ and can be read here. Puffins already aware that ‘to construct the AIXI agent πξ we simply take πμ and replace μ with ξ’ have no need to click on the link.
In 2014 DeepMind was sold to Google. Without a technical background, a 2019 article in Business Insider described Mustafa’s role within Google as being, “focused on the business side of the company and today he is trying to find applications for DeepMind’s technology both inside and outside of Google while also ensuring that the company’s work in AI remains safe and ethical.”
If Mr Suleyman’s back story, career path and role sound a bit World Economic Forum, that’s because they are.
Mustafa sits on the WEF’s AI Governing Alliance alongside Puffin’s favourite, and Facebook global affairs supremo, Nick Clegg. Elsewhere on the committee sit AI, social media, big tech, law and academia panjandrums (and a shiek). One might almost suspect the WEF intends to use control of mass information to manipulate everything we think and do. In parallel, Reos Partners and the like insist upon their clients the WEF’s agenda on climate, energy, education et al.
Camilla Cavendish (not her real name, Hilary Camilla van Steenis, Baroness Cavendish of Little Venice of Mells in the County of Somerset) is a journalist with the globalist Financial Times. Her ladyship was educated privately at £21,000 a year Putney High School before graduating from Brasenose College, again Oxford, and again in PPE.
After a brief career in management consultancy, the 55-year-old became a London media-political bubble lifer interrupted only by a spell as head of David Cameron’s Downing Street Policy Unit. Her husband, Huw van Steenis, is a management consultant and former senior advisor to the living saints at Union Bank of Switzerland. Mr van Steenis is currently co-chair of the WEF’s Global Future Council on Responsive Financial Services. Hmm.
During a previous appearance on QT, your humble author spelt her name wrong all the way through the review. Two Ls in Camilla, oiks.
Question one was about artificial intelligence. Mustafa had been at the government’s recent AI summit at Bletchley Park where safety measures had been decided. He thought AI would eventually replace labour and worried that AI might end up like social media. He described AI as the biggest ever change to our species.
La Bruce worried about lots of things that happen without AI, such as fake news and misleading election communications. This could fall into the wrong hands, worried Nick Thomas-Symond. By that, he means plebs like you. He wanted legislation and mega-regulation to keep your hands off it.
Camilla overpraised her husband’s colleague. She hasn’t read my prep. For no reason she called Mustapha’s company a good company and him a good person. Maria was going to read Mustafa’s book.
Mustapha explained the need for a global panel, like an IPCC. For those not in the know, the IPCC are the climate change crackpots who are banning central heating and cooked food. AI can invent more efficient ways to run data centres and wind farms. ‘We need the state more than ever before.’ Eeek.
Question two was about the situation in Gaza. Jermery reminded us the government isn’t calling for a ceasefire. The reason being the right to Israeli self-defence. He mentioned international law.
I regret the loss of any innocent life, said Marie hesitantly. She agreed Israel had a right to self-defence and drew Iran into the discussion. She allowed for a humanitarian pause and had been in Qatar recently. After suggesting the Qataris as a mediator, she insisted the international community must bring about a two-state solution and the rebuilding of Gaza.
An audience member rejected Marie’s narrative and blamed Netanyahu and the ‘apartheid state’ in Israel. She claimed 9,000 innocent Palestinians had been killed. Do we sell arms to Israel, asked another audience member. Err, err, err, err, yes, mumbled Jeremy. Someone in the audience described the situation in Gaza as a ‘Final Solution’. La Bruce gasped.
Marie took it on the jaw and in a breaking voice responded that she had met victims. Israel is not an apartheid state and is the only democracy in the Middle East. Musfafa announced events on October 7th barbaric. The present situation is exhausting. It’s time for the fighting to stop, whether you call it a ceasefire or not, it’s time for de-escalation. Someone has to take the first step.
Camilla wouldn’t argue for a ceasefire as peace will only come about by regime change in both Gaza and Israel. But she didn’t explain how a continuing war would bring that about. Marie hinted at a choice between an Israeli war of survival or a two-state solution imposed by somebody somehow.
Question three was about the standard of governance exposed by the sweary covid enquiry. Camilla worried this would reduce confidence in politicians even more. The enquiry is too much of a psychodrama. The focus should be on the epidemiological nuts and bolts of what went right and what went wrong.
Panel and audience blamed Boris Johnson. The audience also thought the enquiry pointless and already over-long.
Mustafa found this depressing. He hoped at the next election voters would choose politicians who will read the briefings and believe those infallible things called experts and their blessed AI.
© Always Worth Saying 2023
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