When the British press get their teeth into you, it can be a nasty experience. Usually it is members of the royal family, models or footballers who get "monstered". But it can happen to government ministers too. And one who is definitely in trouble at the moment is Lord Malloch Brown – a senior minister at the Foreign Office with responsibility for Africa, Asia and the UN. I met him last night at a speech and dinner at the London School of Economics – and he was looking a little battered.
Malloch Brown was recently the subject of a cover article in the Spectator, claiming that he has become a serious embarrassment to the British government. The gist of the story was that the Americans hate him because of his behaviour at the UN, as Kofi Annan’s deputy. Malloch Brown is also accused of high living at public expense and of being too close to George Soros. Ominously for the newly ennobled minister, the support for him from his colleagues (both in public and private) has been distinctly luke-warm.
But if Malloch Brown is forced out of the government it would be ridiculous. I don’t particularly share his adoration of multilateral institutions. But if you talk to the man it is clear that he is serious, thoughtful and knowledgable. I have met so many brain-dead British foreign office ministers. It would just be absurd if – having finally found a Foreign Office minister who is clever and experienced – Britain decided to sack him.