DEBATE: Should ambassadors be political appointments?
Following Sir Kim Darroch’s resignation, should ambassadors be political appointments?
Olivia Utley, deputy editor at TheArticle, says YES.
To repair a special relationship which has gone – to put it mildly – a little sour, the new Prime Minister needs to appoint a special kind of ambassador.
Sir Kim, who spent most of his career in Europe, neither warmed to nor understood the Trump administration, and any successor chosen from the ranks of the Foreign Office would likely have the same problem.
Assuming Boris Johnson becomes Prime Minister, he must think outside of the box. And a politician – with serious political nous and a nuanced understanding of Donald Trump’s foibles – would probably be a good bet.
What’s more, it would be a convenient way for Boris to get some distance between himself and a rival, without causing a ruckus. Once Boris is installed at Number 10, he will want his cabinet colleagues to share his vision of post-Brexit Britain, so high profile remainers – like Jeremy Hunt and Rory Stewart – may not be welcome.
Quickly and decisively sending one of them over to Washington may well be a wise decision all round.
Read more: Sir Kim Darroch quits in wake of leaked Trump emails scandal
John Oxley, a divorce barrister at Vardags and a Conservative commentator, says NO.
Diplomats are employed to be diplomatic. They represent the crown and the government, treading the careful line of support for our allies and candid advice for our ministers. This vital work would only be undermined if they were to be politicised.
First, a raft of experience would be thrown away. Ambassadors have generally cut their teeth in foreign missions or military and NGO roles. They have an understanding of statecraft honed over time.
Political appointees would likely tend towards big, bold names who lack such a background. If envoys serve for political reasons, other countries will know that their position is dependent on events back home.
This will damage our ability to build long-lasting relationships and long-term strategies, as the pendulum could swing in new ways after a UK election.
Ambassadors should be neutral and loyal only to the crown. We should not flatter foreign partners by sending them supplicants. To do so would be to betray Britain.
Main photo credit: Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images.