Sir Christopher Meyer is a bit of a card. A lifelong Foreign Office man, he got to the top of that particular profession’s greasy pole and became ambassador to Washington, a post from which he retired in 2003. During a top-end career he worked in Moscow and Bonn as well, and served as press officer to Geoffrey Howe, when he was Foreign Secretary, and to John Major, when he was Prime Minister. Meyer attracted attention – to put it mildly – when he published his memoir DC Confidential, in which he retailed private transactions between him and Tony Blair while the first draft of that history was still being written. This latest volume, we might imagine, is a belated bid for respectability.
The author has taken nine episodes from our diplomatic history to illustrate how that particular profession is conducted: and, more to the point, to show that when Britain has chosen to exert itself diplomatically, the result has usually been positive. Meyer believes that we have a sense of