Popegate – the gays and foreigners did it

Today, the Telegraph plumbs new depths in its vendetta against the FCO over Popegate.

Yesterday, after quoting an anonymous threat from the Vatican to cancel the Papal visit, it was forced to admit that official sources had dismissed the memo as having “absolutely” no impact on the Pope’s plans.

Instead of backing off (having made the most of what was, even without the garnish, a good story), the paper has now doubled down in a truly despicable article that:

  • Outs the author of the memo,  23 year-old Steven Mulvain, as gay, based on his Facebook status. (I wonder how the paper got that information? Surely, Mulvain didn’t have a completely open profile.)
  • Names Mulvain’s boss – Anjoum Noorani – printing his photo to ensure that readers are in no doubt that Noorani is (gasp) a member of an ethnic minority.
  • Hassles Noorani’s mother (!) in Windsor, as if she is in any way relevant to the story.

Of course, the paper doesn’t come straight out and allege that the whole affair is a gay/Muslim plot, though that is clearly the implication. Instead, it complains that the FCO failed to put a Catholic in charge of the visit, rustling up another anonymous quote from the Vatican:

The most striking thing about the Foreign Office team has been how ineffectual they are. They have been disengaged and, frankly, clueless.

I have never had the impression that any members of the team were informed or even sensitive to the Catholic Church or Catholicism generally.

Gutter journalism.

Update: Damian Thompson throws some more paraffin on the fire:

The Catholic Church in this country is (a) not wildly enthusiastic about Benedict XVI, and (b) paralysed by political correctness. The four-strong FO team was led by a member of an ethnic minority and included a gay man. There’s nothing wrong with that: they could have done a fantastic job, particularly if the team had included a practising Catholic (perhaps from an ethnic community – they’re the ones who go to Mass these days). But they didn’t.

And there’s no evidence that any danger signals were spotted by Eccleston Square, which has delegated the papal visit organisation to the Left-wing Mgr Andrew Summersgill, a Magic Circle hardliner some of whose colleagues are heavily into rainbow coalition-style politicking. (If Summersgill had been told that the FO team included an Asian and a gay guy, I can imagine him asking why the transgendered community had been left out.)

Popegate – time to downgrade the Holy See?

From the Telegraph, contrasting reactions to Popegate – the FCO memo that ridiculed Pope Benedict XVI. Damian Thompson – “editor of Telegraph Blogs and a journalist specialising in religion”:

The Foreign Office’s sick attack on the Pope: what did you expect?… My reaction is to say to the Bishops of England and Wales:

NOW do you finally understand what sort of snide, cheap and ignorant prejudice has flourished under this Government and its civil servants – wall-to-wall secularists for whom the Roman Catholic Church is at best an antiquated irrelevance and at worst a sick joke? […]

Oh, sure, the Foreign Office says: “This is clearly a foolish document that does not in any way reflect UK Government or Foreign Office policy or views” – and, of course, most of these proposals wouldn’t have seen the light of day.

But reflect the attitudes of Brown’s government and its politically correct employees is precisely what the document does.

Tim Collard – former diplomat and, apparently, “an active member of the Labour Party”:

Predictably, the usual suspects have blown it up into an international incident. I regret to say that our blogmeister Damian Thompson has made himself look a bit of a Charlie, heading his posting “The Foreign Office’s sick attack on the Pope: what did you expect?”

No, the FCO is not institutionally secularist, Satanist or whatever: it just contains a lot of people who like taking the mickey. Chuck it, Thompson!

Perhaps, we should ask why British diplomats are having to spend their time prepping for the visit of a head of state who (i) leads a religion rather than a state (diplomatic relations are with the Holy See, not Vatican City); (ii) exerts a disproportionate influence on international organisations, especially whenever abortion, contraception or HIV/AIDS is on the agenda (denouncing the latter as a ‘true pathology of the spirit” at the General Assembly Special Session on AIDS in 2001, opposing emergency contraception for women raped in Kosovo).

According to Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, the principal agent of Papal diplomacy is the Pope himself, part of whose global role is to “contest systems or ideas that corrode the dignity of the person.” In practice, this means using international fora to oppose:

Delegations from certain Western countries who wish… to impose models of life that were actually the result of the propaganda of certain minorities within their societies… It will always be the duty of the Holy See to prevent the lowering of personal and social moral standards and to contribute to raising them.

No other religion enjoys the diplomatic privileges accorded to the Holy See=, with its status is yet another example of how Europe’s historical dominance skews the international system.

Maybe some brave soul in the FCO should set to work on a memo suggesting that it is time to start treating the Catholic Church like any other religious organisation…

Bullying in the Foreign Office (updated)

The eruption of bullygate reminds me of this recent exchange between Labour MP, Sandra Osborne, and Peter Ricketts, the Foreign Office’s Permanent Secretary:

Osborne: Could I ask you about staff morale as far as bullying, harassment and discrimination is concerned? In the staff survey of 2008-I know that Mr. Bevan referred to the 2009 survey, which has not yet been published-17% of all FCO staff reported experiencing this, and it was only 11% on average across Whitehall. Also, 20% of locally based staff reported this, as opposed to 14% of UK-based staff. How do you explain this relatively high level of reporting of harassment and bullying?

Ricketts: First, can I say that I find it absolutely unacceptable? It’s something that we are worried about and working on. We are very, very keen to see that we get to the bottom of it and root out whatever the problems are. Mr. Bevan can give you details of where we are in the 2009 staff survey. To our real disappointment, that number has not come down very significantly. It has come down from 17 to 16%, which is not good enough, so we have to continue to tackle this problem seriously.

Part of it is understanding exactly what is going on here. We put together bullying, harassment and intimidation, and I need to understand more about what are the actual problems that staff are reporting there, because any suggestion of bullying or harassment is completely unacceptable. Indeed, we are prepared to take staff out of positions abroad and bring them home if we see evidence of behaviour that is bullying or harassment, and we have done that, so we’re trying to send the strongest signal we can, which is taking people out of their postings and bringing them back to London if we see evidence of that.

Osborne went on to point out that “reported levels of discrimination, bullying or harassment tended to be higher among the staff at lower grades, disabled staff and minority ethnic groups, black staff in particular.” James Bevan, the FCO’s DG for Change and Delivery, replied:

You are right. We were so concerned by the 17% figure from the last survey that we commissioned a more detailed analysis of what the data were telling us, and they told us that, by and large, the allegations tend to relate to junior officers who feel that they are being bullied by senior officers and to local staff who sometimes feel that they are being bullied by UK staff, and that there is a higher prevalence of reported experience of this behaviour from black minority ethnic and other minority groups.

One thing that I have done is to meet with representatives of the black staff to talk through why they think this is happening. I have to say that there were some very convincing stories which resulted in my writing to all our heads of mission abroad to say that we are particularly concerned at the high levels of reported behaviour affecting black and minority ethnic staff and that we wanted to crack down on it absolutely to make sure that it reduces next year. The task for us now is to analyse the latest data in the new survey and see if that has happened. If it has not, we will have to keep going.

It’s a worrying finding.

Update: It turns out these are not new findings. From 2006:

One in ten government workers in Whitehall say that they are being bullied, a staff survey has revealed. The research says that the figure rises to one in three in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, with black and Chinese employees suffering the worst harassment.