Monday, June 04, 2007

The Ambassador's Reception

This might surprise a few people, but about 6 years ago, I reached the final stage interview to join the Diplomatic Service. No, really, it's true. I think I still have the correspondence somewhere to prove it.

In the end, I was bombed out, due ostensibly to my lack of 'management experience'. However, the fact that the panel spent the first few minutes of the interview beating me around the head for having had previous political involvement, and asked only the most perfunctory questions about my managerial abilities and experience, tells me that they were probably being, at best, 'diplomatic' themselves in their reasons for my eventual rejection.

I won't deny that it pissed me off a bit at the time. I mean, regardless as to my personal politics, as an (albeit reluctant) British subject, I felt I was as entitled to participate in the institutions of my country as was anyone else. Since I'd selected the 'operational' route, my view was that a British or EU passport holder in trouble was worthy of my full assistance, wherever they happened to be or wherever they happened to come from. Personal politics, which I would have quietly left behind on entry, would through a combination of circumstance and necessity have become completely and utterly irrelevant.

Looking back, although it didn't feel like it at the time, they probably did me a huge favour. I've no doubt that I would have kept my politics in check - after all, I sometimes have to do that working with the SNP. But if I had got in, would I ever have achieved anything? My political 'previous' would have maybe allowed me to get to be a Second or First Secretary somewhere suitably insignificant, but I suspect, alas, that the Ferrero Rocher would never have been mine to hand out.

And never mind my being an SNP voter - how would I have coped trying to defend the Foreign policy of the Blair Government over the past few years? With great difficulty, I suspect. No, in retrospect, the panel made the right decision - as much for my sake as for anyone else's. I may have had all the necessary attributes, but there were one or two others in there as well which meant that I should probably have been more careful about what I was wishing for at the time.

And the point of all this? Well, there isn't one, really, other than to draw the attention of anyone still reading to a four-part series on BBC Radio 4's 'The Westminster Hour'. Presented by Christopher Meyer, 'Lying Abroad' is a fascinating insight into the world of diplomatic representation. It was hearing part 2 on Sunday evening that brought all of this back to me, and thoughts of what might have been if I'd studied hard at university and kept well away from all this political nonsense...

Such is life, but there's nothing I'd swap. Maybe I'll apply to join a Scottish Diplomatic Corps if we get to the stage of requiring one any time soon ;-)


Alwyn ap Huw said...

If you ever become the Scottish Ambassador to an independent Wales can I have an invite to one of your receptions please?

Don't bother with the Ferrero Rocher though - they are just fancy rice-crispy cakes.

Matt said...

Wasn't Paul Scott in the diplomatic corps for quite a while?

Richard Thomson said...

Of course, Alwyn. I'm sure the rugby weekends would be fantastic!

You're right, Matt. Paul Scott was a diplomat before he came back to Scotland.

Willie H said...

Here is an Interesting comment from an ex-Ambassador on Blair's lack of diplomacy regarding the SNP:-