Across Continents

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Self-deprecating society

He’d described himself as the office manager. I’d discovered later he was Her Majesty’s Consul. Terribly understated these Foreign Office chaps. No doubt a diplomatic necessity. But in the budgetary battleground of the recent Comprehensive Spending Review? Perhaps not such a helpful attribute. Which is a real shame. Loosing a bigger slice of their funding than many other Government departments.

Admittedly I do have a soft spot for the FCO. Starts with the top. William Hague. Whatever your politics, one of the finest orators of our time. Devastating wit at the Dispatch Box delivered with a wicked schoolboy smile. An admiration cemented some years ago when I stayed with one of his most ardent constituency supporters at her farmhouse B&B.

I’ve purloined the odd cup of tea and biscuits off the FCO over the years. Realising that, beyond the grandeur of their King Charles Street headquarters, they do rather a lot with very little. Even more so now. Problem is, influence is a pretty intangible commodity. Well nigh impossible for those nasty Treasury bean counters to measure. But my respect for them stems as much from their Consular work as their diplomatic efforts. Assistance that can be relied on if things go seriously awry. Suppose it’s a bit like an insurance policy. Never appreciated until you need to claim.

It’d been spurred on to reflect on their overseas efforts by a single word. Leaping out from the recently published Comprehensive Spending Review. Fairness. Twenty five occurrances. A diplomatic watchword. Sort of. And it was a wet day. But if I was ever tempted to take up politics on my return, to put things right, two things stood in the way. Firstly, I’d have to unseat my own MP. Nice chap. Came to wave me off. And secondly, the House of Commons. Charming crockery but terrible coffee. It’d never do.

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