Former Washington Envoy Refuses to Quit UK Media Post

25 November 2005

Her Majesty's former ambassador to Washington, Sir Christopher Meyer, who these days supplements his meagre diplomatic pension with a six-figure fee as part-time chairman of the UK Press Complaints Commission (PCC), is defiant in the face of political pressure to step down from the post.

Meyer's recent best-selling 'kiss and tell' ambassadorial memoir, DC Confidential, has set the cat among the Westminster political pigeons. And not simply because of his damaging revelations about Anglo-American relationships in the build-up to the attack on Iraq.

Serialisation in three national newspapers of the noble knight's reminiscences has exacerbated ministerial fury. He stands accused - by deputy prime minister John Prescott and foreign secretary Jack Straw - of having compromised his position as chairman of the supposedly independent PCC by wheeling and dealing with members of the newspaper industry over whose regulation he presides.

Asks Prescott rhetorically: "How can I or others criticised in your book, come to the PCC in future and expect impartiality when you have made it quite clear you are anything but? How can you now hope to be an 'honest broker' at the PCC if people suspect they may feature in any future literary effort on your part?"

Ever the bland diplomat, Sir Christopher claims he will not personally benefit from the serialisation fees, the proceeds of which he has donated to three children's charities. Neither I nor my agent was involved in the negotiations about the serialisation rights," he insists.

"All such discussions were conducted by the publishers, specifically in order to avoid any conflict of interest arising on my part. I made the decision to take no money personally from the serialisation. The proceeds will be given in three equal parts to three children's charities."

But other less charitable folk point out that one of those good causes is run by Meyer's wife Catherine. Meyer denies that there will be any spousal benefit.

Adamant that he will stay put at the PCC, Meyer has written to Prescott, copying his missive to members of the PCC and of the committee that appointed him. "My book was submitted in the normal way to the Cabinet Office whose response was that the government had no comments to make."

A silky response that, in the time-honoured traditions of British diplomacy, elegantly sidesteps the core ethical issue of whether Meyer - or publishers acting on his behalf - should have been wrangling over fees with newspaper editors in the first place.

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff