On the fringes with Elizabeth Stewart


On the fringes with Elizabeth Stewart, editor

Election jitters
While the British public rubs its hands in anticipation of closely-fought elections, staff at the Foreign Office are secretly hoping things stay the same. “We’d all like to keep David Miliband right where he is – at the Foreign Office,” said one insider.

His likely successor, William Hague, while having a sound grasp of foreign affairs, does come with baggage. “I fear we will face a battle to build up trust with our European partners,” warned the insider.

Dame Pauline Neville Jones, the shadow security minister who is predicted to play an important role in policy formation, has a formidable reputation, but she left the FCO in a huff when her request to be posted to Paris was snubbed. And there are some at King Charles Street who have not forgotten that…

Rainbow diplomacy?
…The outspoken Europe Minister, Chris Bryant, meanwhile, is someone staff at the FCO – and European diplomats – would rather have stay, as would gay diplomats.

In addition to his role as Europe Minister, he also advanced the cause of gay rights at the Foreign Office and abroad, offering his strong support to British Ambassadors who spoke out against homophobia.

Perhaps if the Europe Minister had the chance to stay on he would have time to make a few changes closer to home. A start would be persuading the Palace to make an exception to the archaic ‘marriage rule’ which only allows married spouses to accompany heads of mission at ceremonial occasions, such as presenting their credentials to The Queen. Since gay marriages are legal in only 22 countries worldwide, this rule bars many gay ambassadors from sharing this ceremony with their partners.