Opinion / Middle East, Arab Spring

Bad Leaders

My latest piece for DIPLOMAT mulls over the problems the world faces in dealing with Bad Leaders. Some of them contain their Badness within their own borders, thrashing their own people because they can. Others spread their badness and create havoc for others. Thus: The last century gave the world […]

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Russia and Rules

Here’s my latest piece on Russia over at the Daily Telegraph: Back in 1902, future mass murderer Vladimir Ilyich Lenin published his pamphlet “What Is To Be Done?” (Что делать?) about the selfish reluctance of the working classes to rise up against capitalism. Now 114 years later, some Western governments ponder what needs […]

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Public Speaking: From Good to Amazing

So here I was in hot Abu Dhabi explaining some finer points of public speaking technique to the excellent colleagues of the Emirates Diplomatic Academy: Nice body language, intensity and eye contact haha. The chart behind me is intended to convey the Core Idea of my approach. In looking at […]

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Putin and Syria: Who’s Committed?

The parable of the chicken and the pig: Question In a bacon-and-egg breakfast, what’s the difference between the Chicken and the Pig? Answer The Chicken is involved. The Pig is committed. Thus Syria. The West in general and Europe in particular is somewhere between ‘implicated’ and ‘involved’, if only by being […]

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Helen Clark: The ‘Official’ Version?

One of the things I urge wannabe speechwriters to consider is this: what is the ‘official’ version of any serious speech? It turns out that this is not so easy to answer as you might think. The classic answer is ‘the version on the website – that’s what they want […]

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Corbyn and NATO: Clueless Negotiator

Watch Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn refuse to say whether he would abide by one of the UK’s (and one the world’s) key treaty relationships, namely the North Atlantic Treaty that created NATO: The generally understood key idea of the North Atlantic Treaty is that ‘an attack on one is an […]

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Negotiating with Islamic State

The UK’s Labour leadership between Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith contest threw up this interesting exchange. Should involve anyone from so-called Islamic State be involved in Middle East peace negotiations? Yes? Or no? A classic ‘closed question’ that leaves almost no room for waffling. Or so you might think. But look carefully […]

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Iraq: FCO Slapstick

The Sunday Times (£) has a piece describing in some detail how ‘Former MI6 Chief’ Sir John Sawers was ‘slapped down for Iraq gaffe’. Here. The article is little more than a breathless description of one document unearthed by the Chilcot Iraq Inquiry. But the author Defence Correspondent Mark Hookham does […]

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The Wisdom of Young Speechwriters

A passing BBC journalist called me to ask for some quotes on why President Obama and his wife Michelle are such great public speakers. A lively discussion ensued on what in fact makes someone a ‘great public speaker’. Are the Obamas excellent speakers who too often give poor speeches? She […]

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Chilcot – Whatever

So. Farewell then, Tony Blair’s reputation. The monumental Chilcot Report on the UK’s role in the Iraq invasion is out. Here it is. Several gazillion pages. No-one can or will read it all. But it will remain a vast trove of material for anyone interested in Diplomatic Technique and how […]

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