Miliband to FCO: right man, right place, right time

I’ve a feeling David Miliband may prove to be a very good fit with his new department.
The Foreign Office was actually my first employer: I spent five years there in the mid-to-late 1990s, through what we should probably call the ‘web 1.0’ phase. I took it from a one-man effort (the one man being yours truly) to probably the most highly respected (and certainly the most trophy-laden) in Whitehall.
The promise of free, instant global communication naturally went down well with the Diplomatic Service – although I have to admit, most of my best work was done in the early days, before the whole internet thing came to senior management attention. FCO’s Travel Advice information is something UK citizens, at home and abroad, really do want and need; the daily supply of speeches and transcripts are an important ingredient of international diplomacy.
So now we’re into ‘web 2.0’, and by happy coincidence, the FCO will be headed up by someone who (as catalogued here continuously) ‘really gets it’. I do know that FCO is working on plans for a site relaunch early next year; they recently bought the Morello content management system ‘in a deal worth £1.47m’ over five years. They received a specific mention in Tom Steinberg’s recent report, naming them as a department which should do more in terms of information sharing and audience engagement, and I know they’re considering how to respond.
Miliband’s instinct for a more transparent and inclusive approach will sit well with FCO’s concept of ‘public diplomacy’. Foreign affairs is much more about persuasion and negotiation than most ministries’ activity.
So what fate awaits his ministerial blog, currently housed at Defra? With more UK casualties in Iraq this morning, he probably has more pressing concerns this time than website migration.
PS: Miliband just arrived at King Charles Street, and spoke of being ‘patient and purposeful, listening as well as leading’. And so it begins.