The New Diplomacy

Tuesday 17th April

Diplomacy was always the art of the educated, the polite, the civilised.  Conducted behind closed doors, words whispered into receptive ears, gentle persuasion, a process of listening for the subtleties of language.  This was the reason for Ambassadors, who in this age of instant news and e-mails are becoming almost redundant, except for the sale of Ferrero-Rochers.  Sealed Telegrams would be hurriedly dispatched from Government offices, special trains run to get diplomats to the right place at the right time.

But all of that is changing fast.  We are now in the world of Social Media, of early morning tweets, of 2 a.m. Prime Ministerial Broadcasts, of telephone hotlines, and most importantly – of megaphone diplomacy.  Language, which used to be so important, is now intemperate and inaccurate; any old lie will do if you shout it loud enough.  And the news media collude with it.  Almost every nonsensical tweet of the Donald is pounced on and pronounced upon and replied to – all without a moment’s hesitation.

In fact, thinking at all has gone completely out of the window.  And action, or words rushed out, instant condemnation is obligatory, politicians are door-stepped for opinions before breakfast, and “Breaking News” (which is rarely actually breaking and even rarer actual news) is the order of the day.  And anyone, especially Jeremy, who wants to think things through, to come to a considered view, to try to calmly assess the long-term situation, is ridiculed – often by tweet and megaphone too.

And just like the Grand old Duke of York, we are marched up to the top of the hill in an unprecedented urgency, only to look around in disbelief and wonder, only to gradually drift back down again, slightly bewildered.  But give it a day or two and the megaphones will be blaring again at some new atrocity….