The Heresiarch links to my thoughts on the FCO and its Popegate scandal, but wonders if I have it right – maybe the causes are … even deeper:

It’s easy enough to blame New Labour, with its love of targets and hatred of anything traditional or elitist, for this sort of tosh, but I suspect the Blair administration has been as much the symptom as the cause of it.

Other, profounder, causes have been at play: a loss of nerve on the part of the old elites, the complete ascendency of the media and the news cycle, a generalised and growing distrust of institutions – most powerful when internalised by those who themselves run those institutions – a truncation of attention-spans and an hysterical neophilia.

The best word for it is infantilisation. Britain, and probably most other western countries as well, is regressing to a state of toddlerism, or at best arrested adolescence.

I could not agree more.

See how the FCO is responding to this self-made disaster. By sending the offenders back to school:

The civil servant in charge of the Pope’s visit to Britain has been suspended and is to be investigated for misconduct after a memo lampooning the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church was leaked to the press.

All the staff involved in producing the memo are to be sent on “urgent diversity training” and will have nothing further to do with organising the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Britain in September.

Please excuse me while I leave the desk to emit a high-pitched scream.

Goes offstage



This is not a problem requiring ‘diversity training’, where the wretched victims sit listlessly staring out of the window, trying their best not to listen to some or other humourless harpy intoning on their need to ‘respect’ minorities and examine their ‘unconscious prejudices’.

This is not a technical problem at all, capable of being sorted by some extra ‘training’.

Indeed, the key problem is the very fact that the FCO apppears to think that lack of ‘training’ is the problem, and that more training is the answer.


It’s all about structure and professional attitude.

What was happening across the organisation to create a culture and command structure in which a significant non-junior diplomat could produce and circulate around Whitehall such drivel? (Note: when the story broke I contacted the FCO myself and was assured that the offending officer was ‘junior’. This was at the least highly misleading.)

Come on Fleet Street, ask the the FCO the right questions:

  • who was Mr Noorani’s line manager?
  • what instructions were given to him and by whom?
  • what internal expertise was being drawn upon to advise on the Pope’s visit?
  • why were these ideas circulated without HM Ambassador to the Vatican clearing them first?
  • who is running this part of the FCO whelk stall?

Answers please, from people in the know.