Lord Skidelsky is Emeritus Professor of Political Economy at the University of Warwick. His three volume biography of the economist John Maynard Keynes (1983, 1992, 2000) received numerous prizes, including the Lionel Gelber Prize for International Relations and the Council on Foreign Relations Prize for International Relations. He was made a life peer in 1991, and was elected Fellow of the British Academy in 1994. He is chairman of the Governors of Brighton College.
- When you were at Brighton College, what did you want to be when you 'grew-up'?
I'm not sure I wanted to be anything. I thought I would be a historian, though what kind of history, and where I would ply my trade, were vague in my mind. It seems odd to say this now, but I never dwelt on the question of how I would earn my living. I just assumed I would be able to earn my living in anything I chose to do.
- What are you now you've grown up?
Most of my career has been spent as a university teacher -first at Oxford, then in the United States, and finally in the economics department at Warwick University. I think of myself as mainly a historian, but my historical work has taken me deep into economics and international relations. I have a political platform in the House of Lords, and have learnt a fair amount about the business world through being on the boards of various companies. I suppose I am best known for my biography of the economist John Maynard Keynes, and Keynes has been the springboard for my criticisms of the present government's austerity policy.
- What is your best memory of school?
Very hard to answer: my bad memories (being teased) are more vivid than by good ones. I think my happiest moments at school were on the squash court, but my single best memory was being appointed Head of School by Bill Stewart.
- What was the best piece of advice you were given?
'Don't go into business. Many people make money, very few write good books'. This was from my step-father, a businessman, whom I loved and admired. It's much easier to think of the best pieces of advice I was never given, and which would have served me in very good stead.
- What does your job involve?
I've rarely had a single job. My main job, as I've already said, was being a university teacher -teaching students, writing scholarly books. I have always enjoyed writing, and have written hundreds of articles and reviews for the newspapers.I think I could have written plays, though not novels.
From the 1980s onwards, my university job was coupled with political life (in the Lords from 1991), chairmanship of the Charleston Trust, and my membership, later chairmanship, of the Board of Governors of Brighton College. I've probably tried to do too many things -again stemming from an early feeling that I could always do what I set my mind to - and as a result have probably not done anything as well as I could have.
- What are the most challenging parts of your job?
Public speaking and remembering names. Speaking in parliament is always a bit nerve wracking, and I greatly admire those who can do so apparently effortlessly without notes: the late Conrad Russell was always word perfect, as is Meghnad Desai today. Remembering names is a nightmare: I remember faces, but often have to fake memory of names.
- What have you done that you are most proud of?
In my scholarly work, my three-volume biography of Keynes. In public life, my opposition to the Kosovan war in 1999, and my opposition to the austerity policy today.
- What is the single thing that would most improve the quality of your life?
Being able to afford to travel in a private jet! I go round the world making speeches, and air travel has grown more and more burdensome.
- What are the three objects you would take with you to a desert island?
I obviously can't have electronic gadgets which would pinpoint my location. So Shakespeare, a piano, and a volume of Beethoven sonatas.
- How would you like to be remembered?
As someone who overcame his faults to become a good husband and a good father.