News that US Ambassador Louis Susman will be stepping down following President Obama’s re-election has set tongues wagging about the potential new occupant of Winfield House.
The most glamorous candidate in the frame is Anna Wintour, the British-born editor of Vogue.
Not known for her diplomacy (her prickly demeanour is thought to be the inspiration for the book and film The Devil Wears Prada), Ms Wintour’s lack of international experience will not disqualify her. US presidents customarily hand out plum ambassadorial posts to ‘bundlers’ – those who have contributed handsomely to campaign coffers.
Fashion’s ice queen bagged £25 million for the Democrat cause by cannily using her leverage in the fashion world to design and sell Obama-inspired merchandise.
While her grasp of diplomacy may be lacking, Ms Wintour knows how to throw a party, having organised glittering fundraising dinners where celebrities paid upwards of £25,000 each to meet the Obamas over dinner – plus she has the backing of the First Lady Michelle Obama (who recently appeared on the cover of Vogue)
Counting against her is her gender (there has only been one female US Ambassador to the UK, Anne Armstrong) and the fact that historically US presidents have favoured wealthy businessmen for the job.
And being rich matters because when it comes to entertainment budgets, the US State Department keeps the purse strings very tight.
But fashion and diplomacy can mix well – the Italian Ambassador Alain Economides showed that when he recently hosted a dinner at his Residence in honour of designer Valentino with such fashion luminaries as Stella McCartney and Victoria Beckham.
But Paris is also up for grabs and perhaps the chic Rue du Fauborg St Honore may suit Ms Wintour better, as it did Pamela Harriman, another British-born socialite who turned out to be a very successful US Ambassador to France before her untimely death in 1997.
London is more likely to get someone like Matthew Barzun, previously US Ambassador to Sweden and the National Finance Chair for the Obama campaign. He was the brains behind the campaign’s phenomenally successful online fundraising strategy.
President Obama did pledge to up the percentage of career diplomats in top posts, but as there has only been one career diplomat in London since 1918, it’s an unlikely bet.