Boris Johnson Sees No Need for Experts?

by ukcivilservant

There is an intriguing story in this morning’s Times. Our Foreign Secretary, facing his first really difficult negotiation with G7 colleagues, chose to be accompanied by:

  • His Principal Private Secretary – Very sensible – an experienced official and the main link with the rest of the FCO machine.
  • His resident expert on Russia – Strangely left behind.
  • His resident expert on EU foreign policy – Even more strangely left behind, given the danger of UK lack of influence following the Brexit vote.
  • Our Ambassador to Italy – Of course.
  • Head of Media – Probably sensible, though maybe better deployed in London.
  • Two Special Advisers – ???
  • FCO’s Chief Operating Officer – Why?

Times have changed, of course, but I was Principal Private Secretary to three Secretaries of State in (what is now) BEIS, and, although we had excellent Spads – and very good working relations with them – I cannot remember Ministers ever being accompanied abroad by a Special Adviser.  But we did make sure that they were always accompanied by officials who knew the local scene and – crucially – knew and understood at least some of the key personalities that the Minister would meet.


Martin Stanley