The Marshal of the Diplomatic Corps Alistair Harrison gives a festive message to the diplomatic corps after an eventful 2016
Where did the year go? It only seems like yesterday that we were getting ready for Christmas 2015. Whatever our views, there can be no doubting that 2016 has been a very surprising year. Away from diplomacy England saw the 5000-1 outsiders Leicester City winning the football premiership, the most surprising result since 1962 (when my local club Ipswich Town won). In mathematical terms Leicester’s triumph was more surprising than anything that happened in politics, domestic or international.
So who would be foolish enough to make predictions about 2017? The only safe predication that I can think of is that there will be yet more surprises, and a very big agenda for diplomats, whomever they represent and wherever they are posted.
Diplomacy is a wide-ranging occupation, covering political developments, economic co-operation and assistance to the citizens of the State one represents. On that last point, I have been delighted to attend a number of events this year involving the consular corps in London (and in Cardiff) whose workload is ever greater as more and more people travel and live outside their home countries. I think I can safely predict that this workload will get no easier in the coming year.
I am about to start my fourth year as Her Majesty’s Marshal of the Diplomatic Corps. I have presented about 150 Heads of Mission to The Queen at credentials ceremonies. Some of those I have presented that already completed their postings in London whilst of course others who have been here since before I became Marshal are still remaining. First among equals is our Dean, who is (by my calculation) in his twenty-fourth year as Ambassador of Kuwait. Even that pales in comparison with Her Majesty who, in early February, completes sixty-five years as Sovereign – the longest reign of any British monarch. She is also now the longest serving Head of State in the world.
So I look forward to the year to come with a sense of continuity amid the surprises. I hope that everyone who reads this column has a good break at Christmas. Sarah and I send you and your families all the best for 2017.