On the fringes with Elizabeth Stewart

On the fringes with Elizabeth Stewart, editor

The X-cellency Factor
It was with some amusement that I read in the papers that X Factor contestants had shacked up next to Ambassador Fu Ying in Golders Green – and that she was not amused by the antics of the teenage fans on her doorstep. Yet, just as the ensuing media circus threatened to depict the Ambassador as a killjoy, charming Madam Fu turned it around at the stroke of a pen, by writing a personal letter to The Sun about how she enjoyed the competition, and that her daughter had wanted to fly over and join in the fun.

In a diplomatic masterstroke, she described similar talent shows in China, saying that teenagers were the same the world over. If I were a diplomatic talent judge, she’d get my vote.

Steamy diplomacy
…On the subject of classy women diplomats, I was reminded by an article in the FT of the backward attitude the FCO had towards women diplomats not so long ago. Up until 1974, the ‘marriage bar’ was in place, forcing women envoys to resign as soon as they tied the knot. The article describes how resistant men were to the idea of women envoys, with the Britain’s Man in Berne claiming: “The clever woman would not be liked and the attractive woman would not be taken seriously.”

But the most bizarre excuse for passing a woman over for promotion came in Finland, where the head of mission claimed “all diplomacy is done in the sauna.” I happen to know the woman in question, who went on to become an ambassador.