SOME FINAL REMARKS
I propose ending my narrative here. I had two tours of duty in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and spent many years on EEC affairs, first as Head of our Delegation to the High Authority of the Coal and Steel Community in Luxembourg, an assignment which was intended to last only six months until the fusion of the three Executives, the Commission, Euratom, and the ECSC, into one, but which was prolonged for over two years through General de Gaulle’s quarrel with the President of the Commission; then, prior to Britain’s accession, a period guiding Whitehall departments through the quasi-political, quasi-legal jungle of Community secondary legislation, which had to be adapted to fit in with British needs and practices, the preparation of authentic texts of that legislation, and the technical aspects of the Treaty drafting; and finally, as British Steel’s man in Brussels, ensuring that the BSC’s voice was fully heard and her interests protected. But to describe these periods in my career in any detail would hardly fit in with what has gone before. It is rather subject-matter for a serious treatise, and has in any case already been comprehensively dealt with by many competent specialists. Such an account would also no doubt be more matter of fact, and might detract from the interest which I hope I have aroused so far.
The distant horizons of the posts in which we served, their climates and countryside have been described to create a backcloth to understanding the peoples among whom we lived, their political conditioning and cultural heritage, their own unique ways of life, their aspirations, work and leisure pursuits. It is a far cry from the daily catalogue of fighting and destruction, famine and disease which afflict many parts of the globe, and on which the media rightly concentrate. But good news is not newsworthy, and it is necessary to adjust the horrific record from time to time by remembering that over the far greater part of the world many millions of people are living their lives in the same kind of peaceful setting which we found in our posts.
I wish to avoid a lengthy conclusion, but there are two vital points which must be underlined.
The first is the urgent necessity for more study of Soviet affairs, to understand the motivation of the Soviet authorities, and above all the cardinal principle that their system is totally alien to Western democracy, and irreconcilable with it. “Peaceful coexistence”, however much abused by Western critics, and however misused by the Russians, is no empty catch-word. It is the only conceivable way in which the two systems can live together in mutual toleration, hopefully in peace. Patient, persistent talking, and where possible negotiation, while always maintaining a strong guard, are a very necessary part of the process.
The second is the crying need for a much bigger effort, by both sides, to promote the more rapid development of the poorer parts of the world. Not in a spirt of grabbing as much as possible by the developing countries, nor in a spirit on the part of the West of stealing an economic advantage over one’s neighbour, but as a properly co-ordinated, well-financed effort such as can be achieved under the expert guidance of the special institutions that exist for this purpose.
I considered it a great privilege to be part of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the greatest service of all. I accepted without demur the postings, the rough with the smooth (chiefly rough), and served in them with all the devotion and objectivity possible, reporting back on the situations exactly as I saw them, without embroidery intended to please, and leaving it to the Office at home to make of it what they wished. And the great majority of Foreign Service offices have done likewise, cherishing a modest ambition for their own careers, perhaps, but above all else carrying out their duties with the utmost loyalty, often in trying material and psychological circumstances. Highly respected and influential wherever they serve, Foreign Service officers are doing a wonderful job, day in and day out, keeping the peace, fostering good relations, and watching over British interests. Of course too much is expected of the Service, not only by those who do not know, but also by those who should know better. It is by its very nature close to events and to trends and developments worldwide, and maintains a superb reporting service to Whitehall and Ministers. But it cannot be expected to have prior warning of every clandestine plot, coup d’état, or premeditated attack, which of their very essence are the secrets most closely guarded. Nor can it exceed the limits of its accreditation by interfering in a country’s political or administrative arrangements, or in the legal side of cases involving British subjects. But short of such intervention, it does all in its power to help and sustain British subjects in difficulties or caught up in legal suits abroad. Persuasion and negotiation are its most effective weapons, not only for defending British interests, but also for extending the weight of its authority far beyond that first requirement into maintaining an ongoing closeness with government and influential opinion. Great things are being achieved daily, which can hardly be denigrated by the ephemeral and ill-advised attacks that are made from time to time on the Service.
Friends have often asked us where we would most like to have retired. To the life of a lotus-eater in Bali, perhaps? Few Englishmen would, we think, stand up to the submerging of their individuality in the Buddhist/Hindu concept of the cosmic scheme of things. Even retirement across the Channel must have its difficulties. Acceptance into French society for instance, must take years, and then only after a long period of “rodage” or running-in. To settle in Spain must be less easy still, and demand an early choice between its flamenco culture or identity with the life-style of the large British expatriate community, and for all the sun and colourful life, we would not have wished to retire to Egypt or S.E. Asia.
We chose instead to retire to Yorkshire, in which we were born and which is part of us. More specifically to Scarborough, that beautiful watering place largely unchanged since Victorian days, where the most prestigious long-established tailor still displays a sign proclaiming himself to be “Indian and Colonial outfitter”, and where the coastline and majestic rolling moors remain largely unspoilt. When we need a change, we will delight, always provided we can rake up enough money, in visiting once again the places and peoples we have known and loved.