Although this blog's name is inspired by Sauti Kubwa ("Big Voice"), the late lead singer of Rumba Japan, a band that played in Nairobi in the early years of this century, it won't focus unduly on Swahili nicknames, rumba music or indeed any other African issues.


Sunday, 13 June 2010

Craig Murray and the FCO's budget

I pay a certain attention to the well-informed thoughts of Craig Murray, the Norfolk Scot, bon viveur, former diplomat and continuing scourge of British foreign policy.

This is partly because he's one of the people I've known/met/worked with/come across before they were at all famous, or at least vaguely in the public eye. (Others in that category include national treasure Stephen Fry, BNP leader Nick Griffin, and rat-fancier and former deselected Labour MP Jane Griffiths.)

In an interesting open letter to William Hague, Murray proposes some specific (and major) cuts in the FCO's budget.

Shortly after the election, I opined that the FCO would see a resurgence of its influence (if not its budget) under Hague after a lengthy period in which the folk of King Charles Street were marginalised by those on the northern side of Downing Street. Blair became his own foreign secretary and Brown didn't want to give his rival Miliband any room to manoeuvre.

Hague is a very substantial figure in the new government, and I suspect Cameron defers to him considerably. Hague set out some cogent views on foreign policy in advance of the election, including paying much more attention to India (why has that country been so neglected by the UK, relative to its massive size and given the historical connection?) but also recognizing the need for retrenchment elsewhere.

The question now is whether Hague feels he can engineer an expanded and refocused role for the FCO, while simultaneously overseeing a reduction in its size and budget. Of course, his officials will tell him it can't be done...

1 comment:

  1. Hear, hear with your comments on India. It's bizarre, to say the least, that it is already such an influence on British commercial interests- particularly in the burgeoning call centre business- yet seems to have been so little the focus of our foreign policy- surely even more vital given the tensions in neighbouring Pakistan?

    I've a lot of time and respect for William Hague, and have always felt he peaked too soon as Tory party leader some years ago. Or maybe that just wan't the job for him, whereas the FCO brief is, or should be?

    But I wonder if the FCO's role can ever be what it once was, or the office of Foreign Secretary so prestigious, as long as Europe plays an ever-greater role in Britain's affairs? Indeed, perhaps this is what Hague and Cameron between them can best apply their efforts to? It's interesting- and rather odd, perhaps?- that we seem to have heard very little of Lady Ashton, the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs but a nomination of the ancien regime, since the election. Is this significant?