12 April 2019 - 13 April 2019

Renewing democratic societies to face the future: what insights can we draw from the last two-and-a-half years of Ditchley conferences?

Chair: The Rt Hon the Lord Hill of Oareford CBE

Over the last two-and-a-half years, we have, while keeping space in the programme to respond to events and crises, shaped Ditchley’s programme around the major challenges facing the democratic world and tried to identify some of the opportunities for renewal.

This Ditchley discussion will bring together politicians, writers, technologists and other members of Ditchley’s wider network in order to reflect on the insights that have emerged from Ditchley conferences and their cumulative significance for 21st century leadership in the democratic world, across politics, business, technology, economy, society and culture.

This will be the first in a series of reflective discussions to try to sketch out a new palette of options for democratic leadership that takes account of the rise of China as a modern authoritarian superpower; the impact of technology; and the crisis of legitimacy of traditional political and business elites that continues to grip the West.

We aim to offer up options for both right and left, for those that judge the future is best shaped by focusing on the conditions for wealth creation and those that judge the priority to be wealth redistribution. (For the UK in particular, we also aim to include options for those who see the UK’s best future outside the EU and those who want us to remain within it). Above these political divergences, we aim for a narrative that can take (what we still tend lazily to call) the West into the future with confidence and with core values, economic viability and defence capability, intact.

In advance of 12 April, we will produce a summary of insights from the conferences and some draft high level cumulative insights to inform the discussion. Broadly though, we will aim to address:

  • What’s the story? What narratives can give renewed meaning and purpose to democratic societies and their institutions and the practice of democracy?
  • What’s the answer to the challenge and opportunity of China? How do we share a world and a single integrated global economy with a superpower that is rising by its own lights, not ours?
  • How do we rewrite democracy in code? How do we take account of the impact of technology that is going to become ever more pervasive?
  • How do we help people adapt and prepare for a faster changing future?
  • How do we sustain economic growth and the legitimacy of markets and capitalism?
  • How do we cope with ageing populations and other demographic changes such as immigration?
  • How do we move to a sustainable global economy and contain climate change and other planet-scale challenges when multilateralism is faltering?
  • What must we defend with military force and how can we do that with the resources we have?