UPDATE, early morning, July 22: Simon Fraser’s appointment as new permanent secretary at the Foreign Office was confirmed by David Cameron on the train from Washington to New York last night.
But still no news on the appointment of a high-profile trade minister and nobody on the horizon.
Cameron’s “messianic” approach to drumming up trade for Britain has been hindered by the fact that the government is not very well set up to deliver: notably the prime minister has tried and failed for two months to recruit a high profile trade minister.
I gather that Cameron may soon have an announcement on that front, possibly before he arrives in New York later today. But in the meantime, I gather that another key appointment is imminent.
The word is that Simon Fraser, the urbane permanent secretary at the Department of Business, is about to transfer to the Foreign Office, to beef up that department’s commercial focus.
I only have this from one source at the moment and am awaiting confirmation, but clearly Cameron wants to support his rhetoric on trade with a revamp in terms of personnel.
If Fraser does go to the FCO, his appointment would support claims by William Hague, foreign secretary, that he wants diplomacy and business to work hand-in-hand from now on.
It would also be fascinating on another level: Fraser was a trusted servant of Peter Mandelson, working for him in the EU’s trade directorate and then following him back to London to help him run BIS.
Mandelson is said to be delighted by the appointment, a sure sign that working for the Prince of Darkness does not put a black spot on one’s career in the new Cameron era.
George Parker is the FT’s political editor