Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock) the courteous man who was so famously polite to Dr David Kelly (Dcsd) is asking some apparently odd Parliamentary questions of the fragrant Margaret, Secretary of State for Carvanners & Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. He apparently wants to know, " for what reason the practice by retiring ambassadors of sending valedictory telegrams has ceased."
Furthermore he asks, " would she place in the Library a copy of the valedictory telegram sent by Ambassador Sir Ivor Roberts KCMG on the conclusion of his ambassadorship to Italy and his retirement from the diplomatic service".
Few will forget that on September 14th 2004 the (Liverpool born , Oxford educated) career diplomat (now Master of Trinity, Oxford) Sir Ivor caused a knee tremble in Roman diplomatic circles when he was reported to have said to a closed conference of British and Italian diplomats who were gooofing off about who would win the upcoming Presidential elections :
" George W. Bush is the best recruiting sergeant for al Qaeda. If there is anyone ready to celebrate his eventual re-election, it is al Qaeda."A curious view (if true) for a diplomatic representative of the Junior party in the Coalition of Lickspittles. The British Foreign Office quickly fired off a response saying that the comments "do not represent British government policy," and that the event , a British-Italian think-tank on terrorism, (guests included Chris Patten, former governor of Hong Kong, and Neil Kinnock), was covered by the so-called Chatham House Rules, which means that anything said by delegates should remain off the record.
Roberts, was attending what was clearly announced as an off-the-record meeting in Tuscany. Off the record, translated into Italian as ufficioso or perhaps loosely as sotto voce, may mean something different , as Ambassador Roberts was quick to point out ..."these remarks as reported do not reflect my personal views."
Leaving one to wonder where Corriere della Sera learned of the remarks and whose views they did represent.... Or indeed why Giuliano Ferrara, the editor of the conservative Il Foglio newspaper and the man closest to the pulse on Dubya's arsehole (former "adviser "to arch diplomat , and jointly in the dock presently with Mr Jowell) Silvio Berlusconi, had cancelled attendance at an Embassy dinner a couple of days later, observing in the pages of his right wing rag that ..
"The dinner unfortunately would be a complete waste of time and a grotesque hypocrisy, I would rather sup with the French ambassador, who loyally represents his government in Rome."
Curiously the Scotsman at the time (21/9/04) reported that the Corriere reporter, Moncia Guerzoni, added that Sir Ivor also said that the Bush administration was "conditioned and pressured by groups of powerful Israelis". What is known is that sometime after this event and Sir Ivor's departure for Oxford, the Foreign Office (Observer 24th September 2006) abandoned the centuries-old tradition of allowing departing diplomats to speak their minds.... by issuing valedictory telegrams.
What on earth can the ordure agitating Mr Andrew McKinley MP be up to ?
Perhaps Pendennis in the Observer Feb 11th 2007 was making a useful point about crooked Italians, Prime Ministers, their love affairs , Tony Blair and the utility of fluent Ambassadors and their polyglot wives ? High table at Trinity must have taken on a C.P. Snowesque role of academic scheming of late perhaps ?
Watch this space.