Opinion / Middle East, Arab Spring

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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Brexit (4): Negotiation Dynamics

I plan to write lots of things here on how the Brexit situation casts light on Negotiation Theory and Practice. I won’t be alone. The problems and opportunities created by the UK’s Brexit vote will give negotiation pundits material for decades, maybe centuries. Let’s start with some very big picture […]

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Arise, Illiberal Democracy

The news crashes in of the latest terrorist attacks in Europe, this time in Brussels. Earlier this morning I read this piece by George Friedman about ‘illiberal democracy’ in Poland and Hungary: The point is that liberal democracy as a principle of government has a vast array of possible configurations. […]

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UK Diplomacy: Ukraine and Gay Rights

Here is an interesting piece about Judith Gough, HM Ambassador to Ukraine, who is accompanied on her posting by her female civil partner: “the first full discussion with a member of the press about life as an out-and-proud ambassador”. Note the desperate improvisation of the FCO scouring its sprawling building […]

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Security v Chaos: What a Joke?

Here’s my latest piece for DIPLOMAT magazine, on global security or not. It starts with a quote immediately familiar to diligent readers here: WHO SAID THIS (the answer is at the end of this piece)? “Introduce a little anarchy. Upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos … Oh, and you […]

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