Sir Christopher Meyer, formerly Our Man in Washington and subsequently Chairman of the somewhat pointless Press Complaints Commission, is doing a bit of complaining himself in the Daily Telegraph.
It seems that the “lights are going out in the Foreign Office” and the great British diplomatic service, traditionally held in the highest esteem by all foreigners is no longer so. In fact, the reputation is under threat.
He then goes on to produce a great deal of misplaced nostalgia (British diplomats have never been known for their extensive knowledge of languages, for instance) and complaints about all the things that are going wrong.
There are several things he does not mention. Apparently, it has escaped Sir Christopher’s attention that the Rolls Royce that is our foreign and diplomatic service has been unable or unwilling to negotiate with any kind of credibility within the European Union and its predecessors. Not to put too fine a point on it, those Europeans who are so full of admiration for British diplomats have run rings round them.
There is, as a number of comments have pointed out, no real need for the FCO any more as the EU Foreign Service, in existence for about twenty years, will, post-Lisbon, become the main diplomatic service for all the member states. Britain, thanks in great measure to our brilliant diplomats, is not a sovereign country and, therefore, has no need for diplomats, ambassadors, attaches or any of that paraphernalia.
The only thing we do need to deal with is expats in trouble, the very task Sir Christopher finds demeaning.
As to the politicization of the diplomatic corps, Sir Christopher Meyer was one of those who pushed the process along, as I wrote as long ago as 2005 on EUReferendum.
If we must have ambassadors, a questionable proposition in this day of easy communication, they should not, in my opinion, be self-publicizing glamour boys or girls. The Meyers seemed the epitome of Blairite politics and diplomacy. So, I was not unduly surprised when Sir Christopher proceeded to stab the Prime Minister and the entire government severally and together in the back by publishing a somewhat self-serving (his brilliance as described by himself in his book appears to be undeniable) memoir of his days in the American capital.It’s a bit much to have this self-publicist weeping crocodile tears about the … sob … disintegration of the great British diplomatic service.
Well, now, before we start to laugh too heartily at another problem Tony Blair seems to have encountered, let us have a look at the truth of the matter.
Sir Christopher Meyer is a civil servant, a diplomat. One assumes he signed something called the Official Secrets’ Act at some point in his career but that does not seem to inhibit anyone any more. As ambassador he was in a position of trust and confidentiality. Above all, he is not supposed to engage in open party politicking. Two years after his ambassadorship he is not exactly expected to diss his employer, the British government.