Former Minister of State for Culture & Member of the House of Lords
You were that rare beast: a Minister of State for Culture who loved the arts. What are your top five arts picks?
I am going to cheat a little and give my five most memorable arts events: the return of the paintings in The Hermitage to Houghton Hall – extraordinary after 250 years; Mark Rylance in Jerusalem; Pina Bausch at Sadler’s Wells – a discovery that was life-changing for me; Leonardo at The National Gallery – I helped secure a painting for the exhibition, The Lady with an Ermine; and finally, meeting Tom Cruise at Charles Finch’s legendary BAFTA dinner.
Who will you ask to Easter Sunday lunch if all restrictions are lifted?
President Biden — might as well aim high!
As a connoisseur of both, House of Lords, or House of Commons?
I loved the Commons, but the affair ended naturally after fourteen years. Now I love the Lords. The Lords attracts people who like to have a niche, and as I am almost exclusively focused on tech and culture, I can pursue my passions and make alliances with like-minded people. I am not very party political.
Which of all Britain’s Prime Ministers do you admire most – and why?
Thatcher — she is the reason I went into politics. Though if Charles James Fox had made it, he would be on my list.
Who would win an arm wrestle, Boris Johnson or David Cameron?
Boris – he would probably kick Dave in the shins when no one is looking.
Which current world leader do you admire least and why?
Kim Jong-Un. Holding an entire country hostage.
A lunch date with Arnold
Schwarzenegger or Jacinda Ardern?
Arnie. I admire Jacinda, but I am drawn to the fact that Arnie is tough enough to call out his fellow Republicans and stand up for what he believes against his party’s new orthodoxy. I also admire his backstory.
What topic doesn’t get enough political and media coverage?
Staggeringly dull answer alert! Digitising public services. We could save more money, and have more impact on people’s lives, if we relentlessly pursued the idea of providing easy-to-use public services online.
What keeps you awake at night?
If you could give one bit of advice to your young self, what would it be?
Self-confidence and passion are the keys to success. Academic success pales in comparison.
Queen’s Gambit or The Crown?
Queen’s Gambit – completely original, and an un-hyped, unexpected hit.
Restrictions, or a bit more liberty?
As much liberty as possible, please. If you could spend lockdown anywhere, where would you go? My small house in Oxfordshire where we spent the first lockdown – one of the happiest times of my life, if I’m allowed to say that.
What one measure would you take to help the environment?
I would make every home solar powered.
Which one person has influenced your life the most?
My parents. I see my mum most days.
Who would you appoint as your spiritual guru?
My cousin Krishna Das (born Jeffrey Kagel), the chant master of American yoga. When I went to see him perform, I bumped into Will Smith and Ozwald Boateng.
If you could appoint a world king or queen, who would it be?
It would have to be a queen, as women are so much better at running things. Maybe Merkel could step up.
What have you learned about yourself during lockdown?
I miss meeting people, but I also know I could never have a conventional job. Nine-to-five doesn’t work for me, which is why I have been able to cope with lockdown (just).