Alex Massie

FCO vs Hacks

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It seems like Sir Nigel Sheinwald's assessment of Barack Obama was leaked to the Telegraph months ago. But it was in fact published earlier this month. I'd meant to write about it at the time, but the moment passed and that seemed to be that. Still, Slate has republished the memo, permitting one to observe blogospheric rules of timeliness and revisit the affair.

Affair, of course, is putting it too strongly. Our Man in Washington's report is decidedly cautious. There is not a scrap of controversy in it. On the contrary, it is dry, sober, even-handed and judicious. It could, if it were less dull, be a Financial Times profile. That's not an insult: the FT is a fine newspaper.

But... Should we be concerned that the man appointed to one of the country's most important diplomatic posts appears to have no more insight than a moderately diligent foreign correspondent or relieved that, on this evidence, most moderately percptive foreign correspondents couldĀ  - at, no doubt, considerably less expense - have prepared a report for the Prime Minister that was every bit as comprehensive and acute as that sent back to Downing Street by Sir Nigel?

Alternatively, do we tend to hold an inflated opinion of the FCO's brain-packed brilliance anyway?

One for Charles Crawford to answer, I think.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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