Time called on top UK blogger

In February, The Times named the blog written by Philip Barclay and Grace Mutandwa, staff at the British Embasy in Zimbabwe, to beĀ  one of the UK’s best. And rightly so. Some of the stuff they’ve written has been the most moving I’ve ever read on a blog. But while Grace is a local, Philip is part of the diplomatic staff – and in keeping with FCO policy, once three years are up, he’ll be moved on.
‘The Foreign Office is cruel,’ he writes in his final post. ‘My brain must go on to some other job, while my heart stays in Zimbabwe. How cruel to be dragged away just as recovery might begin.’ As ever, it’s stirring stuff: how the experience has changed him from an ‘arrogant and complacent British diplomat’, snapshots of the anguish and beauty in the country, expressions of optimism tinged with unspoken anger.
The blog will continue, he writes, in the hands of his colleague, ‘the incomparable Grace’. But that, in itself, takes us into intriguing territory: a Zimbabwean writing such a high-profile blog on behalf of the British diplomatic service. It’s terrible to have to write this, but I hope it goes OK for her. I was delighted to meet Philip at the FCO’s blogging seminar a few weeks back; it’ll be interesting to see if, or how he might take the blogging thing forward into his new role.

2 thoughts on “Time called on top UK blogger”

  1. Simon,
    What is important about Philips blog is that it opens up a debate on how diplomats blog and how social media can enable to diplomats to emerge as something akin to public figures expressing a view and siding with people who are oppressed. As a keen viewer of cinema I see how diplomats are represented in cinema.
    Take for example the film of Le Carre’s ‘Constant Garderner’ who in the opening scenes is presented to the audience as the rather stiff and distant diplomat who then investigates corruption and becomes more cynical. As the Jam’s live album was titled ‘Dig the new breed’ does a blogging diplomat in the style of Philip signal the beginning of a new breed what I would term a diplomat activist.

  2. She’ll be all right.
    I’ve been following the opposition’s situation for ages via the brilliant Sokwanele http://www.sokwanele.com/thisiszimbabwe/ and it’s fair to say, for the first time, that things are definitely hopeful.
    There are still enormous problems but the opposition is gradually winning victory after victory – such as getting people released from custody.
    Incidentally, the use of the web and particularly mobiles has played an enormous role in grassroots organising against the Mugabe regime.

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