I first met Peter Sutherland when he was EC Competition Commissioner. He railed against mindless criticism of all things European then, and he was still doing it at this year's Henry Ford II lecture at Cranfield School of Management. As a speaker, this former barrister, Irish attorney-general, director general of the World Trade Organisation and self-confessed raging Euro federalist is magic. He has enough of the bluff Irishman to make you think how agreeable it might be to settle down with him for an evening and sink a few pints of the black stuff. But just when he's lulled you, he hits you between the eyes with passion and fervour.
'European integration is just one step on the road to globalisation,' said Sutherland. 'It cannot be stopped and ultimately it will do everyone a lot of good. And by the way, there is no conspiracy between multinationals and those governments that see globalisation as a means of furthering their own ends.' Not that the recent demonstrations in Seattle should be ignored. They were, he said, a wake-up call to politicians.
All of this was delivered with tremendous oratorical technique; a narrowing of the eyes, a slowing of the speech and a gentle but persistent sawing of the air to emphasise the point. Great stuff and very persuasive. Only afterwards did some people realise that they'd been sandbagged by a consummate politician with the blarney.
Key moment: The revelation that GATT is referred to as the General Agreement for Talk and Talk.
Key lesson: Engage your audience with plenty of genuine humour, then sober up when you have something important to say.
Silver tongue or foot in mouth?