The Libyan third way.
Dressed in a brown-gold robe, he cuts an impressive figure. There are no guards or minders in view, and the occasion is a completely informal one. He is instantly recognisable and would be so to a great many people across the world, whatever their feelings about him might be. In a way, it is an extraordinary phenomenon. Libya is a tiny country in terms of population, with only 5.8 million people. Gaddafi's global prominence is altogether out of proportion to the size of the nation he leads. He is now 64, in power since 1969. Rumours abound that he is in failing health, but he looks robust.
You usually get about half an hour when meeting a political leader. My conversation with Gaddafi lasts for more than three. Gaddafi is relaxed and he clearly enjoys intellectual conversation. We sit close together and occasionally sip mint tea. He has a tiny notebook in front of him, into which he sometimes makes short scribbled entries. He is not a fidgety person but has a calm, articulate manner, and cracks the odd joke or two as we go along. The only other direct participant is a man who has just flown in from New York, apparently especially to do the translation.
It does show all the signs of the classic invited humbled guest being overwhelmed by the sheer political power wielded by The Leader, as Giddens assures us he is universally known as. More than anything though you would suspect it's the flattery - just as Tony Blair's grasping of the Third Way ensured Giddens's name would go down in political as well as sociological history, it was unthinkable that he'd turn down the opportunity to hear even the most ghastly dictator being complimentary about his main body of work over the past decade. Not that Gadaffi is the only autocrat Blair and friends tried to sell the Third Way to: back in 1998 he suggested to the Chinese they too were followers of the path of triangulation. That same BBC article even discusses the possibility of Giddens being ennobled and joining another load of unelected politicians: 5 years later he duly became Baron Giddens.