29 February 2024, 17:30 – 19:00

How to Make Politics Better

Black and white image of children reading a newspaper
  • LocationLecture Theatre, Trinity Hall, and online
  • CostFree of charge
  • Booking closing dateThursday, 29 February 2024 12:00pm
  • Event typePanel discussion

Bookings for this event have now closed. If you have any questions, or would like to receive the recording of this event, please contact Rebecca Horner at developmentevents@trinhall.cam.ac.uk.

How can we engage constructively with politics, while simultaneously holding our leaders to account? How do we respond to populism and distrust in elites as an academic institution, and as politically engaged individuals? How do we approach social media and disinformation, in the context of impartiality and free speech?

Join Mary Hockaday, Dr James Wood, Dr Lee de-Wit, and Jo Coburn (who you may recognise from the BBC’s Politics Live) to discuss how we can make politics better, together.

All are welcome at the drinks reception beforehand.

This is a hybrid event. You can book to attend in-person or online using the booking links.


17:30-17:45 Drinks reception in the Terrace Room

17:45-19:00 Panel Discussion in the Lecture Theatre

Mary Hockaday

Mary Hockaday

Mary Hockaday (1981) read English at Trinity Hall and took an MA in Journalism at New York University on a Fulbright Scholarship.

Mary Hockaday was formerly Controller BBC World Service English, responsible for the BBC World Service’s international radio and digital services, and growing the weekly audience to nearly 100 million. From 2009-2014 she was Head of the BBC Newsroom, overseeing the BBC’s core news services on radio, television and online for domestic and global audiences and leading innovation in digital and visual journalism. Mary was Editor of BBC World Service News and Current Affairs from 2001 to 2006. WSNCA won a Special Sony Gold award in recognition of its 9/11 coverage.

In the early 1990s Mary was based in Prague as correspondent for the BBC and The Independent, covering post-communist Czechoslovakia. She is author of a biography of Milena Jesenska, 20th Century Czech journalist and muse of Franz Kafka.

Mary serves on the board of the British Library, is a Lay Trustee with the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, is an Independent Non-executive Director with the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and a Board Member with a small social enterprise, Climate Alliance. She is a former external examiner for Cardiff University’s School of Journalism.

Lee de-Witt

Dr Lee de-Wit

Lee de-Wit is an Assistant Professor and Deputy Head of the Department of Psychology in Cambridge. His research focuses on computational social science, and experimental approaches to the study of Political Psychology. Lee is also the Director of Undergraduate Education in the Department of Psychology, and a Fellow and Director of Studies in Psychology and Behavioural Science at Trinity Hall. Lee originally studied Experimental Psychology at the University of Bristol (2002-2005), and then did an Economic and Research Council–funded Masters (2005-2006, with Charles Fernyhough) and PhD (2006-2009, with David Milner FRS and Robert Kentridge) at Durham University. Lee worked as a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Leuven with Johan Wagemans (2010-2015), then as a Teaching Fellow / Senior Teaching Fellow (2016-2019) at UCL, before joining the Department of Psychology in Cambridge in 2019.

Dr James Wood

Dr James Wood

James Wood is a Senior Teaching Associate in Political Economy in the Department of Politics and International Studies. James also holds a Staff Fellowship in Politics at Trinity Hall, where he is the HSPS Director of Studies and Undergraduate Tutor, and he has previously held the role of Acting Senior Tutor of the College. James’ research examines the political legitimation of economic policymaking from a Comparative Political Economy perspective with a focus on the United States, United Kingdom, and the European Union. More specifically, his work explores how the construction of political and economic crises, and the politics of homeownership and household debt, maintain political support for neoliberalism. James is currently researching innovation policy in the United States for a book to be published with Bristol University Press in 2025. James completed his undergraduate degree in economics at the University of Sussex (2010–2013) before obtaining his MA (2014) and PhD (2017) in International Political Economy at King’s College London. He has also held visiting positions at Copenhagen Business School (2015–2016) and King’s College London (2020-2021). James is a co-convenor of the Political Studies Association’s British and Comparative Political Economy Specialist Group. Prior to academia, James worked at one of the largest mortgage joint ventures in the United States for almost a decade.


Jo Coburn

Jo is one of the BBC’s most experienced political presenters — regularly presenting politics shows since 2007 and anchoring Politics Live since its launch in September 2018.

Jo has had a ringside seat throughout the high-octane political drama of the past few years: Brexit, the pandemic, the rise and fall of Boris Johnson, and the extraordinary and short premiership of Liz Truss. Throughout Jo has helped the programme’s audience on BBC2 and iPlayer understand what’s going on through engaging, accessible conversations.

Jo is also a key BBC presenter for big political moments like the recent Autumn Statement, Chancellors’ Budgets, and election results programmes. She regularly appears on Newscast and has presented BBC One’s flagship political show on a Sunday morning.

Away from politics, Jo has been a school governor, and works with several Jewish charities. She lives in West London with her husband and two sons.

Booking and cost

There is no charge to attend, however, booking is required.

If you are joining us online, you will receive an email by 16:00 on Thursday 29 February with a link and joining instructions. The livestream will begin at 17:45.

Dining Privileges

We would like to invite alumni to use their dining privileges to join us at High Table after the discussion. Please note that spaces are limited.

Trinity Hall Spotlights: Politics

This event forms part of Trinity Hall Spotlights: Politics, a series which will endeavour to throw some light on what lies ahead of us as we enter an extraordinary political year. We will endeavour to keep you informed and engaged through a programme of events.


We like to take photographs at our alumni events to use in our digital and print communications. If you do not wish to have your photo taken, please let us know in advance or on the day.


The Lecture Theatre, Trinity Hall, Trinity Lane, Cambridge, CB2 1TJ.

Please visit the Porters’ Lodge on arrival where they will direct you to the venue.


Please let us know as soon as possible if you find you are no longer able to attend, as we have limited capacity for this event. Please email the office or call +44 (0)1223 332555 at the earliest opportunity.


If you have any queries, please contact Rebecca Horner on alumnievents@trinhall.cam.ac.uk or call +44 (0)1223 763010. If you have any questions about events in general, please see our event FAQs.