The BBC is running a radio series on FCO Valedictory Despatches, a now lost art-form in which Ambassadors gave Whitehall the benefit of their Views on leaving a post and/or leaving the Foreign Service altogether.
One of my first postings on this site described my successful late-night lunge to suppress freedom of speech and keep one of these despatches safe from the nosy public.
The programme has a website linking to some original FCO despatches obtained via the Freedom of Information Act, ‘redacted’ or otherwise.
Check out for example what’s left of Sir Robin Renwick’s from Washington in 1995 after the censoring mice got to it, and his swipe at the ‘Europeanisation’ of our foreign policy with its resultant unhappy attempts at positioning UK policy “somewhere between the French,Germans and Americans”.
My own Valedictory telegrams were sent in profusion from three posts: Sarajevo (1998); Belgrade (2003); and Warsaw (2007). From Belgrade I sent three, one each for Serbia, Kosovo and Montenegro.
The Warsaw ones issued after the new rule ‘suppressing’ these policy/career summaries came into effect. So I duly sent two telegrams:
– one on the philosophical aspects of the end of communism in Europe (extracts from which readers in a world scoop here have seen: The Final Submission)
– one describing my Lifetime Career Oscar Achievement Awards, a self-indulgent but droll list of the best and worst moments of 28 years’ service. This masterpiece itself won an Oscar: The Award for the Best Final Telegram in FCO History (“brilliant“)
The BBC series is well researched, and should be well worth a listen if you are interested in the way diplomacy has evolved, both for better and worse, in recent decades.
Oh, and even though they have not put any of my works on the website they did interview me, so maybe I’ll have a walk-on role.