The second Bishop’s Debate organised by Pewsey Deanery and with Marlborough Deanery took place at St John’s Theatre on the Hill on Wednesday evening (September 14) with politician Lord Owen and the former Chaplain General of the army, the Venerable Stephen Robbins, opposing the motion “Military intervention in the affairs of other nations is wrong.”
L to R: The Revd Alan Deboo, Dr Colin Heber-Percy, Lord David Owen, Simon Denis, and chair Rosemary Cook
Supporting the motion were Dr Colin Heber Percy, a philosopher and author, and Simon Denis, a historian, teacher and former pupil at St John’s. Before the debate most of the audience showed whether they were in favour or against the motion – producing a 110-51 split in favour of intervention.
Dr Heber Percy argued strongly that as a major seller of arms Britain was not an impartial force with the moral authority to intervene: “Intervention is a sales pitch and they want you to buy into it.”
Lord Owen, foreign secretary from 1977 to 1979 and closely involved in bringing peace to former-Yugoslavia, did not argue that every intervention was right. But he was a fierce believer in the United Nations, the legitimacy of its charter and of interventions authorised by the Security Council.
Click here to visit a view of the debate from Rhiana Mills, IB student at St Johns
In backing the motion, Simon Denis thought intervention was too often a cover for regime change and tended to leave things as bad or even worse than they were. He thought intervention by the western, democratic powers was a thing of the past: “We’re not living, alas, in a westernised world.”
Simon Denis The Venerable Stephen Robbins Dr Colin Heber-Percy
Stephen Robbins, who was senior army chaplain for the invasion of Iraq, admitted that not all interventions went as well as they should. But gave impassioned support for the moral duty to deal “with the worst of humanity” and said the failure to stop the genocide in Rwanda had been “an absolute disgrace.”
After the debate the audience of over 200 levelled some pointed questions at the panellists. Then the vote was taken again – those against military intervention increased their vote by just six votes.
Coming soon in this space: reports on the debate by two St John’s sixth formers.