Archive for May 14th, 2011

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Standards – The FCO

May 14, 2011

Well dear readers, yesterday I had the pleasure of the company of Judith Gardiner, Deputy Head of Mission, British Embassy, Kyiv.

The sun comes out in beautiful Odessa and every man (woman in this case) and his dog leaves Kyiv at the first opportunity, unsurprisingly, and heads for the better parts of Ukraine.

It is always good to catch up with what the FCO is doing in Ukraine and to be honest, it is always a pleasure to have any dealings with Judith, whatever the medium for communication.

We spoke of many things, of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings –  We actually we didn’t, we spoke of inflation, business, Visas for Ukrainians, Visas and Work Permits for Brits, the merits and pitfalls of LOCATE, local government of Odessa, national government of Ukraine, the FCO, people we both know, the immediate future of Ukraine and medium term, what, where, how and why of UK/Ukrainian interaction, serious and organised crime, the border situation in Schengen, immigration, asylum and the fact that I would join the Irina Akimova fan club if she had one.

A very broad agenda (as there wasn’t really an agenda) but what an absolute delight to have such quality conversation with someone so involved in Ukraine and access to the corridors of power here (and in Whitehall).  It was nothing less than therapeutic at a certain level and incredibly interesting at another.

We spoke of many things but I gave my word that certain very interesting issues would not be repeated here.  I also do not forget that I once signed the Official Secrets Act many moons ago, not that it matters, if you give your word, you keep it.  Trust is and must be absolute when having certain conversations.

I will say there are potentially two concentrated efforts from our people in Kyiv that seem likely to be cause for “hurrahs and huzzahs” throughout the diplomatic mission Kyiv and within Whitehall if successful.

Quite outstanding work to have even reached the current stage with the Ukrainian government, exemplary work should the i’s be dotted, the t’s be crossed leading to actual implementation.

Of course if it doesn’t then no mention in dispatches for those concerned and on the surface to the uninformed, UK Embassy Kyiv is sat doing very little for the UK and Ukraine as per the popular, misguided, uninformed perception.  So often it is easy to forget that whatever the FCO does or doesn’t achieve cannot be shouted from the roof tops, before, during or afterwards for sensitive reasons, often more sensitive to the nation in which they operate rather than the UK’s sensitivities.

That is the trouble with statistics, they never show (or never adequately show) what time was spent on what could have been but wasn’t or the time spent on contingencies that are never needed.  All I can say for ticky box time and motion studies are that they reduce both time and motion to do anything else.

I can but assure you dear readers, that whilst I cannot impart the contents of the meeting, our people in Kyiv are doing very well indeed.

Amongst other things which can be spoken about openly, were standards.  Quite topical given the Foreign Affairs Committee report on The Role of the FCO in UK Government published only a few weeks ago   Not a short read I will grant you, but well worth a look.

Other things discussed included mutual acquaintances, such Mr Charles Crawford who has his own things to say about standards within the FCO.  It seems Charles was one of the first diplomats Judith every met (20 years ago) and described him has “fearsome”.  Charles, fearsome?  Well, maybe, I have never worked for him but in all our communications he has been nothing but direct and courteous.  In his TED presentations he comes across rather well…..almost cuddly!

Another strange thing, whilst our current Ambassador is from Manchester, so is our Deputy Head of Mission.  Both I believe to be Man Utd fans.  Maybe this is why Charles appeared fearsome, he is after all a Spurs fan?

Mancunians as Numbers 1 and 2 for UK Plc Ukraine?  Whatever next?

Suffice to say our FCO diplomats have always been regarded as a different league on the whole.  As my team currently sit mid-table in the Championship, that is probably a very good way to politely doff ones cap to the intellect that is apparent amongst our remaining senior FCO civil servants.

Unfortunately it would appear that unless something is done, there is a reasonable chance of the FCO mirroring the spectacular fall down the league of Accrington Stanley post 1978.

Accrington Stanley?  Who are they?

Exactly!

Anyway, let us hope that Mr Hague takes due notice.

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