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Peter Millett

Ambassador to Libya, Tripoli

Part of UK in Jordan

7th May 2012

A Cocktail of Ambassadors

What’s the collective noun for Ambassadors?  A canapé of diplomats?  A gang? A horde? Or just a corps?  Hopefully not a corpse!  Perhaps a Cocktail of Ambassadors, but that risks feeding the erroneous perception of diplomats as pleasure-seeking, gin-and-tonic swilling, expense-account nonentities. Which is far from the truth.

Foreign Secretary
Foreign Secretary William Hague at an event on the eve of the annual FCO Leadership Conference, 9 May 2011.

Google failed to provide an answer. Most probably there is no collective noun because Ambassadors do not hunt in packs like a pride of lions. Nor do they sting like a swarm of bees. Serious gatherings of the leaders of diplomatic missions are rare.

Last week’s Leadership Conference of British Heads of Missions in London was one of these occasions. Over 400 members of the senior leadership of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office spent the week looking at policy and management issues.

The importance of this event is illustrated by the cast list: the Prime Minister David Cameron came to set out his priorities: stimulating the economy through trade; supporting democracy in the Middle East and celebrating the London 2012 Olympics.

The Foreign Secretary William Hague gave the keynote speech and started by thanking all the staff of the Foreign Office, at home and abroad, UK diplomats and local staff for tackling the huge policy issues of the day and for delivering high quality services. The challenges of the last 12 months have been enormous, especially in the Middle East. He exhorted us to be ambitious and creative. He also underlined the importance of continuing to adapt to change.

We also heard from the Home Secretary, Chancellor of the Exchequer and Culture Secretaries, all illustrating that there is no such thing as purely foreign policy and that diplomatic missions abroad have to be aware of and promote issues such as trade and security which have a direct impact on domestic policies.

An example is the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the London 2012 Olympics present enormous opportunities for us to demonstrate that the UK is a modern, diverse and creative country. They also present the biggest organisational, protocol and security challenges of recent years.

Looking back at the week, I was struck by the focus on the Middle East as Ministers adjust to the enormous changes over the last 18 months. With violence in Syria, uncertainty in Egypt and stalemate in Palestine, we need new policies and strategies not just to react to crisis but to offer encouragement and support where the people of the region want it.

A week away with my colleagues was a valuable opportunity to catch up with old friends who are dotted round the world, take stock of what we are doing and get our marching orders for the next twelve months. Comparing notes with the members of the Cocktail of Ambassadors convinced me that I am lucky and privileged to be in Jordan.

2 comments on “A Cocktail of Ambassadors

  1. Loved it too and thought this year’s Leadership Conference the best ever. In my last posting, the President dubbed us an “Excess of Excellencies” but after reading Tuesday’s Foreign Affairs debate in Parliament, the new term may be a “sizzle of Ambassadors”.

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About Peter Millett

Peter arrived in Tunis on 23 June 2015 to take up his post as Ambassador to Libya. Previously he was British Ambassador to Jordan from February 2011 to June 2015. He was High Commissioner to…

Peter arrived in Tunis on 23 June 2015 to take up his post as
Ambassador to Libya.
Previously he was British Ambassador to Jordan from February 2011 to June 2015.
He was High Commissioner to Cyprus from 2005 – 2010.
He was Director of Security in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
from 2002-2005, dealing with all aspects of security for British
diplomatic missions overseas.
From 1997-2001 he served as Deputy Head of Mission in Athens.
From 1993-96 Mr Millett was Head of Personnel Policy in the FCO.
From 1989-93 he held the post of First Secretary (Energy) in the UK
Representative Office to the European Union in Brussels, representing
the UK on all energy and nuclear issues.
From 1981-1985 he served as Second Secretary (Political) in Doha.
Peter was born in 1955 in London.  He is married to June Millett and
has three daughters, born in 1984, 1987 and 1991.  
His interests include his family, tennis and travel.