Daniel Korski

Good lord

Good lord
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Earlier this week, Lord Malloch Brown announced he's resigning his brief as Africa Minister in the Foreign Office. I'm sure this will cause some rejoicing, including among my Coffee House colleagues. It was, after all, the Spectator that went to town on the former UN staffer's grace-and-favour appartment in Admiralty Arch and the other niceties offered to him by the Prime Minister a few years ago.

However, I have always found Malloch Brown professional, courteous, and insightful. He may have struggled to find his proper role immediately upon appointment - foolishly describing himself as a Richelieu-type character to David Milliband's king - and sometimes allowed his sense of self-worth get the better of him, but he was miles ahead of any other Foreign Office minister.

Most ministers today have little idea of their brief. Not only are they shuffled around at great speeds, few have any foreign experience before becoming ministers. As the Labour government enters its late winter, the quality is not set to rise.

But Malloch Brown was different. In many ways he was what exists in the US administration: an expert political appointee with an impressive rolodex. On the very few times I met him to discuss a policy issue, say Afghanistan, I found a man who had not only read his brief, but absorbed my writings on the subject to be discussed - and was prepared to concede points as well as argue back. For someone accused of being anti-American, I once found myself in the (unusual) position of taking an anti-American view on a particular issue as he took the US side. That was under George W Bush.

Lord Malloch Brown will do well in the Lords, where he can fulfil the Upper House's intended function: to provide considered and expert review of government policy and legislation.

But if the government was smart it would appoint him to replace Sir John Sawers as the UK's ambassador to the UN. Having been UNDP chief and Kofi Annan's Chief of Staff, few people know UN Plaza as Lord Malloch Brown does. With Susan Rice, a close Obama confidant, as the US envoy to the UN, only someone of Malloch Brown's stature can safeguard UK-UN interests. If appointed, there is no reason to believe a Cameron government would sack him - so long as he remained loyal to his by then newly-elected masters.

Lord Malloch Brown may have his flaws, but he has been a good public servant. He could still serve HMG in a number of ways.