Thursday was a red-letter day in the history of the Foreign Office with the appointment of the first female ambassador to France. It means that for the first time all the key British postings –Berlin, Tokyo, Washington, Canberra, Beijing, Paris, Rome, Moscow and the UN – are now held by women. Quite an achievement given the FO banned women from diplomacy until 1946 and required them to resign if they married until 1973.
Unfortunately diplomatic affairs appear to be somewhat more retrograde just across the Channel. The former French ambassador to the United States Gérard Araud took to Twitter today to offer his thoughts on the four-time Pulitzer prize winning American poet Robert Frost, declaring:
“The difference between a lady and a diplomat? When a lady says No, it means maybe. When maybe, it’s Yes and when Yes, she is not a lady. When a diplomat says Yes, it means maybe. When maybe, it’s No and when No, he is not a diplomat.
— Gérard Araud (@GerardAraud) May 1, 2021
The difference between a lady and a diplomat? When a lady says No, it means maybe. When maybe, it’s Yes and when Yes, she is not a lady. When a diplomat says Yes, it means maybe. When maybe, it’s No and when No, he is not a diplomat. https://t.co/K56DK9uuVq
Amid criticisms of misogyny and rape culture, it's worth noting that Araud has previous form when it comes to missing the memo on not embarrassing your country on social media. The extremely online ambassador served five years as the top Paris representative in Washington, during which time he claimed on election night 2016 'it is the end of an era, the era of neoliberalism' and that 'After Brexit and this election anything is possible. A world is collapsing before our eyes.'
A year later he stepped up his campaign, declaring on Pearl Harbor Day in 2017: 'In this Pearl Harbor day, we should remember that the US refused to side with France and the UK to confront the fascist powers in the 30s' before ending his tenure in 2019 with an exit interview in which he described Washington DC as being full of provincial dinners, 'sad' baggy suits, and awful jeans.'
Still, Steerpike is glad Araud is giving the women representing Britain overseas an example on how not to do diplomacy by tweet.