Sunday 11 November 2007

The outsiders

The junior foreign minister, Lord Malloch-Brown, is certainly getting up enough people's noses at the Foreign Office, and if the Sunday papers are to be believed, none more so than that of his ostensible boss, the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband. With a hatchet-job in the Spectator, and some pretty brutal follow-ups in the Sunday Times and Observer, someone has been busy this week. The truth is that, however appealing they may look on paper, it is never a great idea to appoint non-politicians to ministerial jobs. Malloch-Brown has not just gaffed by confusing his UN world view with his role as a UK foreign minister; he has also confessed, according to one report, to being clueless about the ways of today's British press. And by feeling he is doing Gordon Brown a favour by taking this job, he inevitably creates a tension with Miliband who won't like a minister with a direct line to the top, whether or not he commits policy gaffes. What is surprising is that it is Malloch-Brown, not Lord Digby Jones who has been the first of the 'outsiders' to fall victim to this sort of briefing. By comparison, the former CBI chief has been a model minister (even if he rarely votes with the government).

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