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Politics & press news – Embassy 25 – May 2010

FCO team reflects nuanced foreign policy

The new team of ministers at the Foreign Office points to a the more nuanced foreign policy of the Con-Lib coalition government, with a moderate stance on Europe and a boosted profile for emerging regions.

Joining the Foreign Secretary William Hague in King Charles Street will be the new Europe Minister, David Lidington, his former parliamentary private secretary during his leadership of the Conservative Party and one-time adviser to Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd.

Thaw on Europe
The appointment of the moderate Tory MP for Aylesbury – who replaces Mark Francois, the Eurosceptic shadow Europe minister responsible for the Conservatives' controversial split from the main centre-right EPP group in the European parliament – is regarded as a sign of the pro-European influence of the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

The move will be welcomed by London’s diplomats, a majority of whom said in a survey that Lib Dem policies on Europe were most persuasive, as opposed to 9 per cent who agreed with the Tories’ sceptical slant on Europe.

Boost for emerging giants
The second minister of state in the team will be the Lib Dem MP for Taunton Deane Jeremy Browne, the former treasury spokesman and son of a diplomat. His brief includes South East Asia, the Far East, Central and South America, Australasia and the Pacific, Overseas Territories and consular affairs. A middle-level ministerial role for Latin America will please diplomats from the region, who have felt marginalised in recent years.

Heavyweight Middle East minister divides opinion
Taking over the tough brief of Afghanistan, South Asia, Middle East, North Africa and counter-terrorism is Alistair Burt MP, a chief whip and deputy chairman of the Conservative Party. A seasoned MP for North East Bedfordshire, he worked in the environment, education and science ministries during the Thatcher era, as well as Social Security Minister during the Major administration.

His membership of the Conservative Friends of Israel lobby group may divide opinion among the corps, with pro-Israel groups welcoming the appointment, while raising some eyebrows among Arab diplomats.

Safe hands for Africa and Commonwealth
The shadow justice minister, Henry Bellingham MP, has been moved to the Foreign Office as junior minister responsible for Africa and the UN after the post of Justice Minister was given to Lib Dem veteran Lord McNally. But the MP for North West Norfolk has experience in foreign affairs, having worked as parliamentary private secretary for former defence and foreign secretary Malcolm Rifkind from 1991-97.

Covering FCO business in the House of Lords will be Tory sage Lord Howell of Guilford, who will also take on responsibility for the Commonwealth, migration, drugs and international crime. The former Secretary of State for Energy and Transport is said to have coined the term ‘privatisation’ and is father-in-law to Chancellor George Osborne.

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Foreign Secretary William Hague


Europe Minister David Lidington


Minister of State Jeremy Browne


Middle East Minister Alistair Burt


Minister for Africa and the UN Lord Howell of Guildford

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