The world is at a critical point, with Brexit, climate change and ecological collapse and mass disillusionment with the neoliberal economic model.
None of these issues can be tackled by one government alone, and good relationships between governments, full understanding of motives, personalities and capabilities, the ability to react quickly and authoritatively in crises, is crucial.
That’s what diplomacy is supposed to, and quite often does, achieve, behind the fancy canapes, Ferrero Rocher and the flowery language.
Among the enemies of diplomacy are people and forces who don’t want to see that cooperation, that working together for the common good, that seek to stir up conflict and disruption in which massive profits can be made.
Which makes ‘the Darroch affair’ particularly disturbing.
The UK’s ambassador to Washington did absolutely nothing wrong. Kim Darroch was honestly reporting to his government about what is happening in his host nation. That’s his job – and he’s being now being hammered for it by a significant range of forces.
What Sir Kim reported, the state of the US government under a far-right demagogue, is obvious. The tragic impact on human lives (such as at the Mexican border) is there for all to see, as are the dangerously destabilising international impacts (such as with the Iran nuclear deal).
Yet what happened to our Washington envoy’s comments was not the work of foreign interference but a simple leak from within the depths of our own government.
We might not know precisely who did the job, but we can have a clear idea of what political camp they are from by applying that classic investigatory questions, what was the conduit for the leak, who has motive, and who is seeking to benefit?
Even before the leak it was clear that Sir Kim was under attack, as a number of other senior civil servants have been, for allegedly being insufficiently pro-Brexit – as if it wasn’t right for them to be trying to warn about the disastrous impacts of government policies and the choices being made by their political masters.
There’s a parade of distinguished, knowledgeable public servants lost in the recent past: ambassador to the European Union, Sir Ivan Rogers, Brexit team leader, Olly Robbins and Tom Shinner, in charge of Brexit planning. All have or are leaving. It’s a tally only surpassed by the continual stream of Tory ministerial resignations, from figures of far less stature and standing.
We can tell a lot by looking at the reaction of those who’ve leapt on the innocent ambassador with glee, trying to hold him responsible for doing his job honestly and fearlessly.
I don’t think I’ve ever said “I agree with Alan Duncan” before, but the Foreign office minister was absolutely right to condemn Nigel Farage for leaping in to attack the professional diplomat.
That’s the same Nigel Farage who’s Donald Trump’s candidate for the job, the two of them apparently missing the point that this is supposed to be the UK’s representative in Washington, not the president’s British poodle. And the Brexit Party leader was throwing out his application over the airwaves barely after the ink had dried on the original leak.
Farage and Trump are people who want to foment political chaos, the breakdown of the existing order for personal benefit.
That’s why the ambassador needs to be defended and his term of office to continue as scheduled until January. The leak inquiry needs to be pursued with forensic thoroughness, and we need to ensure our next man or woman in Washington is a fully qualified, impartial – and tough – professional diplomat.
And that they are properly resourced. With austerity biting and hitting the most vulnerable and desperate in our society, increasingly homelessness, growing child poverty, a desperate lack of social care, it isn’t easy to make the case to defend diplomatic spending.
But helping keep the world stable and at peace and hence our country safe is one of the most basic tasks of government. And the resources to do that have been cut to the lowest level in 20 years, just as the world becomes far more unstable.
Plutarch warned us about the fate of Tigranes, the Armenian emperor who killed the first messenger who brought bad news then was left without knowledge of a Roman advance: in this world we don’t want to be in the same situation.
Amelia Womack is deputy leader of the Green Party