London’s Diplomatic Circuit
Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 10th July, 2007
The Bahamian High Commissioner, Basil O’Brien, this evening hosted the annual Bahamas National Day party, at the Four Seasons Hotel just off London’s Park Lane. When I was Honorary Consul for Mauritania to the Court of St James’s, from 1991 to 2000, I used to have to go to three or four of these sorts of event every week, though now it’s down to about 10 a year. London has enormous importance in global diplomacy and is the ultimate location for networking. There are more embassies here than just about anywhere on earth, apart from Brussels (where some countries have up to three missions: to Belgium, to the EU and to NATO). Basil, who has been en poste here since 1999, has always ensured that the Bahamas party is special — not just because of the rum punch that flows liberally and the steel band that plays lustily, but also because of the eclectic mix of the guests. This evening, other diplomats — many of whom had come on from a Buckingham Palace Garden Party — rubbed shoulders with representatives of the shipping industry, businessmen, priests (both Catholic and Protestant), and a cross-section of London’s beau monde and demi-monde — including at least two former habitués of Soho’s Colony Room.
Interestingly, the most frequent subject of conversation was the amazement and in some cases irritation expressed at the blanket coverage being given by the BBC and the print media to Alastair Campbell’s diaries. Quite apart from the fact that it was an outrageous affront to democracy that this man was given so much influence over government policy-making and presentation during the Blair years, without any sort of democratic mandate, Campbell has always struck me as a flawed character and deeply insecure. I really can’t understand why so much of the British media is still dancing to his tune. It is not as if he is even a great diarist. Unlike that old rogue, Alan Clark, he neither spills the beans, nor has wit. I find it all a depressing reflection of our stage-managed age.