Former British Ambassador to the United States and Germany, former Chairman of the Press Complaints Commission
Sir Christopher Meyer was almost 40 years in the British Diplomatic
Service. His career culminated as Ambassador to the United States
during the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush presidencies. His five
and a half years in Washington, which made him the longest-serving
Ambassador to the USA since the Second World War, coincided with
9/11, the war in Afghanistan and the preparation for war in Iraq.
Before then he was Ambassador to Germany and had postings to
Russia, Spain and the European Union in Brussels. He was also Press
Secretary to Prime Minister John Major, Foreign Office Spokesman,
and speech writer to three Foreign Secretaries.
Sir Christopher was knighted by Her Majesty The Queen in 1998.
After his retirement from the Diplomatic Service in 2003, Sir
Christopher chaired the Press Complaints Commission for six years
until March 2009.
Sir Christopher is now a regular television, radio and newspaper
commentator on international affairs and the media. In 2005 he
published DC Confidential, a memoir of his time in the Diplomatic
Service. His latest book, Getting Our Way: 500 Years of Adventure
and Intrigue: the Inside Story of British Diplomacy, was published last
year and accompanied a three-part TV series for BBC4. He has also
recently broadcast a documentary series on the Press for BBC Radio
4, called the The Watchdog and the Feral Beast.
Sir Christopher is an Honorary Fellow of Peterhouse, Cambridge, and
a visiting Professor at the University of North Carolina. He is a non-
executive director of the Arbuthnot Banking Group; a member of the
international advisory board of Fleishman-Hillard; and a member of
the executive committee of The Pilgrims. He is a Freeman of the City
of London and member of the Worshipful Company of Stationers.
Sir Christopher is married to Catherine, who is Chair and Chief
Executive of the international children’s charity, PACT (Parents and Abducted Children Together). They have four sons between them)
On arriving in London he will find himself thrown into the monstrous hopper of the British referendum campaign, where facts are sacrificed daily on the altar of propaganda and abuse. He has been insulted by the leading Brexiteer, Boris Johnson, for suggesting that the United States would prefer Britain to remain in the EU - declared, bipartisan, American policy since time immemorial. A group of Eurosceptic MPs have warned him off intervening in the campaign. Yet, for all the fog of the Brexit wars, Obama's visit will vividly illuminate what is at stake for Britain on 23 June. The referendum will fix Britain's place in the world for a century or more.
The charges against David Cameron over his Iraq policy are well founded. But there are extenuating circumstances... It is time for a root-and-branch review of the principles of British foreign policy, so that they reflect two essential things: the world as it is and not as we would wish it to be; and the British national interest. Or, to put it another way, don't do nation-building and don't intervene in other people's civil wars - we usually make things worse, as in Iraq, and the waste of blood and treasure is unforgivable. If this means hobnobbing with dictators, so be it. Only genocide and threats to world order merit military intervention, as with IS.
David Cameron has the political luxury of not having to answer the toxic question: if not Juncker, who? Unlike John Major, he can luxuriate indefinitely in the plaudits of eurosceptic MPs and newspapers, with Ukip confounded and Labour wrong-footed.
Make no mistake - the Cold War is back. As with the first Cold War the main task is to ensure that it does not turn hot. Paradoxically, the way to achieve that is for NATO, with all the clarity it can muster, to tell Putin that a move against the Baltic states would be met by military retaliation. It is the message that should come out of the crisis summit which president Obama has called for next week. It's scary, but Putin, like so many of his predecessors, understands all too well the language of force.
The politicians' draft Royal Charter is supposed to be a wizard wheeze to entrench "voluntary independent self-regulation", Judge Leveson's Orwellian oxymoron, without crossing David Cameron's Rubicon into statutory regulation. Of course, it does nothing of the kind. It is state regulation by any other name.
It could hardly be worse. The system of press regulation cobbled together by the Coalition and opposition in the wee small hours on Monday is, to borrow the Leveson jargon, neither voluntary, nor independent, nor self-regulation... to the eternal shame of parliament, we have ended up with a political concoction based on a single judge's recommendations, which may lead to the courts telling editors what to put in their publications. That noise you hear is the applause of dictators around the world.
In his inauguration speech, Obama told the American people that ten years of war were coming to an end, with the withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan. He signalled that he now wanted to concentrate on domestic priorities.
There is nothing in any of the proposals aired at the inquiry or in Leveson or in the hubbub since that will make regulatory issues any more tractable than they have been for over the last two decades. Heaven knows, the PCC needed more muscle and more independence. But, there is no half-decent system of press regulation in the world that does not begin with the taking of complaints from the public. Yet Leveson rejected the notion that a complaints-driven system could justify calling itself a regulator.
The pips are squeaking. As the deadline approaches for Lord Justice Leveson to make his recommendations on press regulation to the government, the public debate gets more strident. Rumours abound that he will recommend a role for the state. The chairman of the Press Complaints Commission urged him in a speech last night not to go down this path.
But, what about the internet, I hear you cry? Kate's topless photos have shot around the world. Doesn't this make an utter nonsense of press regulation, statutory or non-statutory? And isn't it unfair to put newspapers, already in a dodgy financial state, at a commercial disadvantage by not being able to publish content widely available online? There are no easy answers. But, unless you want to dispense with regulation altogether, to give newspapers an <em>automatic</em> right to reproduce anything they fancy from the internet surely cannot be justified.
I could make a strong argument that, by inviting to his suite a large gaggle of girls, most, if not all, of whom were strangers, Harry compromised his own privacy. There has been undue focus on the photos. They are but the icing - rich and delicious, it has to be said - on the cake.
Given Ecuador's hyperbole, you might think that British gunboats were sailing even now towards Guayaquil. But, the diplomatic note that our man in Quito left with the Ecuadorean Foreign Ministry earlier this week was a model of moderation.
Our economic troubles have been going on for almost half a decade, with no end in sight. They are the worst crisis to hit Britain since the Second World War. Then we suspended party politics and created a government of national unity. Is it too much to ask that our politicians might do the same today? Is it too much to ask that they should practise what they preach, allow themselves to be suffused with the Olympic spirit, and come together to pull the nation out of its slough of economic despond?
David Cameron must have thought that by bringing Leveson into existence, he had successfully dodged having to deal with furious requests for a crack-down on the tabloid press. But, almost a year later, the inquiry has turned into a Frankenstein's monster.
The endless eurozone crisis provokes a despairing weariness. The G8 has come and gone in Camp David, bringing, so it seems, a solution no nearer. Yet another EU summit will gather later this week. No-one is holding their breath that something fresh and decisive will emerge to halt the ever-mestasising threat of sovereign default. Yet, something has recently changed. To weariness, now add raw alarm. Over the years, European politicians have repeatedly cried wolf, invoking deadlines for a final solution to the euro-crisis that they have then declined to honour. Now, the new deadline is the Greek general election on 17 June. David Cameron has even labelled it a referendum on membership of the eurozone.
The markets have steadied a bit after their loss of nerve on Monday. But you can't help feeling that it is a bit like a climber, sliding down a glacier to his inevitable doom, who breaks his fall for a while on a crumbling ledge that soon will give way.
Politics provides one of the most vivid and telling measures of how wide the Atlantic really is. It is not just that the point of gravity in America is so much further to the right, such that David Cameron would be considered by many Americans as 'socialistic' just for his support of the National Health Service. It is that ideas and beliefs that would be thought daft in Britain are part of mainstream discourse in the US.
"Cameron isolated!" screamed the headlines in the morning's press on the eve of yet another 'make-or-break' European summit. You can almost hear the licking of lips and the smacking of chops as the hacks head to Brussels for the gunfight at the EU Corral.