On the fringes with Elizabeth Stewart

On the fringes with Elizabeth Stewart, editor

An Ambassador at a reception recently told me he’d cracked the secret to British politics. His secret? He’s been watching Yes Minister, the 1980s British satire which plays out the power struggle between an ambitious minister and his pompous, change-resistant permanent secretary, Sir Humphrey Appleby.

Yet Sir Humphrey’s days are numbered – at the Foreign Office at least, if indignant reports in the Daily Mail are to be believed.

Apparently the latest wheeze is to reward diplomats for their good work with colourful stickers saying “Well done!” (What happened to a good old-fashioned promotion?) The Government says the scheme – which is explained in a glossy brochure that comes equipped with 3-D glasses – is an attempt to kill off the ‘Sir Humphrey culture’ in the FCO.

One has to wonder how much this all cost the cash-strapped Foreign Office.

One seasoned ‘Sir Humphrey’ expressed his disapproval thus: “When I joined the Foreign Office, it was a place for well educated grown-ups, not juveniles who act as though they are running a kindergarten.”

I suspect the reports of Sir Humphrey’s death are greatly exaggerated and this idea will be binned – along with the stickers.