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There’s the travel burdens, the need to be MPs too’, explained one Foreign Secretary. ’ The Foreign Secretary’s political advisers provide extra political eyes and ears and hands. They work on drafts of speeches, liaise with the party and with backbench MPs, comment on civil service submissions, feed in their own papers, and occasionally undertake ‘back door’ low-profile diplomatic contacts. They can provide a useful alternative source of advice as well as links to outside organisations, and can have a ‘mine-detector’ role, alerting the Foreign Secretary to possible party trouble or sensitivities about certain issues or decisions (offering ‘a public relations/political insight into what the hazards were’, as one Foreign Secretary put it in interview).

Things can go badly wrong if you lose all contact with your own backbenchers or if you fail to give reasonable access to groups of MPs who are interested in a particular subject’, argued a senior diplomat. 140 It was strong criticism from backbenchers at the Conservative Party 1922 Committee that convinced Lord Carrington that he had no option but to resign following the Falklands invasion in 1982 (earlier, Tory backbenchers had helped to scupper junior minister Nick Ridley’s ‘leaseback’ proposal).

64 John Major was more a man for the take-away McDonald’s™ and he disliked this aspect of the job, but Hurd argues that ‘decision-taking in a union of nation states will always be difficult. ’65 The modern mass media add an extra dimension that earlier Foreign Secretaries, in the 1950s for instance, did not have to face. ‘Today’s ceaseless activity takes place under an intense media spotlight’, Geoffrey Howe notes. ’66 ‘You are now playing to a public gallery and undertaking diplomacy simultaneously, and that doesn’t help’, admitted one former Foreign Secretary in interview.

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Accrobatic Teams 1950-1970 - rc


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