No sooner is my back turned in deep Jersey meeting putative in-laws than a remarkable diplomatic scandal-drama erupts and Sir Kim Darroch ends up resigning as UK Ambassador to the USA.
No-one else has analysed all this sensibly, so I must have a shot. In fact several shots in successive posts here, to cover different angles of these messy and sensitive issues.
Let’s start with Sir Kim. Who is he anyway?
Veteran readers of these pages recall Kim Darroch as the addressee of my own leaked email from Warsaw to London back in 2005, an event that was in its own footling way not without some parallels to this latest one:
This EU Budget thing is already dragging on too long. So here is a draft speech for the Foreign Sec or PM to use next week to bring it to a rapid and successful conclusion:
OK, partners, here is my Budget final offer (Puts a large naff kiddies alarm clock on the table).
We all know that the hypocrisy and absurdity of this process are passing any reasonable limit.
I am being asked to give more UK taxpayers money to an EU which for years can not produce properly audited accounts.
Mon ami Jacques with the support of most of you is nagging me to give the EU more money while the refusing to surrender an inch or even a centimetre on the CAP – a programme which uses inefficient transfers of taxpayers money to bloat rich French landowners and so pump up food prices in Europe, thereby creating poverty in Africa, which we then fail to solve through inefficient but expensive aid programmes. The most stupid, immoral state-subsidised policy in human history, give or take Communism.
As for the new member states, we like you so much that we are proposing in the Budget a huge new transfer of funds to you on a scale which will give your people the greatest boost in 1000 years. I will be attacked by my scary new teenage Tory opposition for building roads and hospitals in Poland and Hungary, rather than in poor areas of the UK.
We – unlike most other old EU MS sitting here – have opened our labour markets. HMG have created more jobs for Poles in the past year than the Polish Government.
Yet not one of you nor a single newspaper in any of your capitals has expressed a single word of gratitude or appreciation for the UK position in all this. So much for solidarity…
Ah. So wise.
Let’s look at Kim’s FCO career (interesting details about his early life are here).
Kim is in fact Nigel Kim, but he wisely eschews his aloof first name even though some people who have not met him then assume he must be part Chinese or Korean or something.
After Kim graduated from Durham University with a degree in Zoology, he applied to the FCO and joined as an Executive Officer (ie not part of the ‘fast-stream’ elite graduate recruitment). In a few years his talent was clear enough and he ‘bridged’ to the fast stream. He’s no linguist – his first overseas posting was to Tokyo as a non-Japanese speaker. He managed some Italian for a posting to Rome.
He returned to London and worked in the then FCO Maritime, Aviation and Environment Department heading the Maritime portfolio. I first met him then as I led the Aviation section. Kim worked on Law of the Sea issues and played an important role in concluding the tricky Channel Tunnel negotiations with France when Mrs Thatcher was Prime Minister. More importantly, as a tall handsome languid squash-player he was the heart-throb of the female secretarial cadre.
That Channel Tunnel success propelled him to work as Private Secretary for FCO Minister of State David Mellor, and then onwards as Counsellor to the UK Mission to the European Union dealing with ‘external’ EU issues (ie EU trade and political relations with non-EU member states). Then a high-profile job back in London running Balkan policy after Yugoslavia collapsed (he helped send me from Moscow to Sarajevo for my own first Ambassador job in 1996) and Head of FCO News Department, accompanying the Foreign Secretary round the planet and leading on all media issues. Raucous boys games in the Press Room, much to the sour disapproval of FCO feminists.
This was followed by a succession of EU policy jobs in London, where he presided over successive vital reorganisations that somehow led him to being promoted and promoted to the giddy heights of the No 10 EU Adviser. And it was to Kim at No 10 in 2005 that I sent my own fateful soon-to-be-leaked-but-not-by-Kim email.
This led to him getting one of the top jobs in the UK Civil Service, namely UK Permanent Representative to the EU. He came back from there to be the Prime Minister’s National Security Adviser (with some eyebrows being raised here and there as he’d really not done much gritty ‘security’ policy work over the decades). But he duly survived and in 2016 was sent on his way to his very final official job as UK Ambassador to Washington.
In short, a quite magnificent career in public service, starting very close to the bottom of the policy food-chain and rising right to the very top.
You might think from all this that Kim is a typical FCO wet fanatical Europhiliac of Brexiteer nightmares, far more loyal to ‘Brussels’ than to London. Not at all. In my own dealings with him he’s always been the wry, unflappable non-ideological cynic, effortlessly summing up horrendously complex issues in a way Ministers can quickly grasp and find helpful. He once told me that the best way to understand the EU was to see it as an endless tag-wrestling brawl, where the Spaniards flatten the French who then squash the Germans who get tripped up by the Maltese and so on.
I have not met Kim in quite a few years now. I’d imagine that on Brexit he’d quietly opine that in this European tag-wrestling marathon we’ve stupidly tripped ourselves up over and over again. Given that, the smart thing to do now is …
It looks as if Kim has done a solid enough job in Washington in cultivating Trumpers and anti-Trumpers alike, and recently helping deliver a State Visit by President Trump to the UK that passed off rather well in the circs.
But then, out of a clear blue sky as he enters a graceful post-FCO glide-path …BOOM. LEAKS. TRUMP TWEETS. BORIS.
And he’s gone.
To be continued.