Sunday, 1 May 2022

There is no High Commissioner

to the United Kingdom at present. This should be a matter of considerable concern.

Normally a short extension would be granted during an election campaign but apparently this has not occurred.  Labor must be very confident of winning the election and being able to choose their own candidate. They will have put considerable pressure on the government not to even extend the commission. 

There are names being bandied around as to the likely candidates for the position - at least on the Labor side. A former state Premier and two former Prime Ministers lead the pack. All of them would be very political appointments indeed, especially the latter two. On the other side there is a suggestion that the job could go to someone who loses their seat at the upcoming election. Anything is possible.

It is considered a plum post, one of the best available. Some consider it better than a posting to Washington. It certainly outstrips Beijing. There are also many people who think it would be a "great" job. 

I am not so sure. I spent four years living in Downunder's capital. I did it at a time when the Senior Cat's cousin was still very, very influential in the foreign affairs of this country.  B... and his wife P... were very supportive of me and my efforts to get the United Nations to do something. 

One way in which they did this was to invite me to dinners at their home. They had to entertain frequently. They were both very, very good at it. Years of experience and postings overseas helped of course but they still had to work at it. All that apparently effortless entertaining was actually very hard work.

P... would phone me, "Cat, we are having a dinner. We need someone to even up the numbers...and there are people coming you need to meet."

B...'s secretary would phone me,"Are you free on.... because your cousin has to entertain.... and he suggests you might find it useful...."

There were variations on those phone calls. There were "drinks" at various places.  B... and P... were supporting my efforts to get the United Nations to agree to something. They knew and B.... had told me how the UN worked and what I needed to do. 

I met people. I met a lot of people. Some of them were interesting and some of them were interested in what I was working on - others simply pretended to be interested. I learned to listen. Asking the right questions and listening to the answers was very important. I learned to talk to people concisely and how to engage their attention in the first few seconds of conversation. I discovered the importance of preparing for such apparently social meetings beforehand.

There was a lot more to all this. I was extraordinarily fortunate to be given the opportunity to meet so many often high ranking people. But it was also hard work. I was doing my degree in law and tutoring to keep myself as well as trying to get that all important idea accepted.  I was working long hours. All of that seemed hard at the time but in reality I was not working any harder than B.... or even P... They were constantly working. There was no such thing as an "ordinary" week for them - or even just an ordinary day. Anything could happen at any time. P... always had to be ready for unexpected visitors - sometimes just for "drinks" at other times for meals. They had to be aware of customs around the world, of dietary restrictions, of current conditions in and the political relations of the countries of those they were entertaining. There were language barriers and much more. It is not a role in which you can play partisan politics.

Former politicians don't always make the best ambassadors.  

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