An Ambassador is evidently not as important as a Scottish First Minister, but there is one interesting similarity. You get to live in a palatial Residence at public expense, and you host numerous social events there, from intimate lunches to grand dinners to receptions for many hundred people. Indeed as a diplomat you do this throughout your career – as an Ambassador, Deputy High Commissioner, First Secretary and even Second Secretary I hosted many scores of such events in my home, and in every case was supported by office and domestic staff who worked under me, both British and local.
The strange thing is that, despite the fact I generally had extremely friendly relationships with those I managed, out of the dozens of women, many young, who assisted me over the years on such occasions, I am absolutely certain that every single one of them would have point blank refused had I asked them upstairs to my bedroom after the event. Some would have refused humorously, some would have told me to F*** Off, some might have suggested I was drunk. But not one would have conceivably said yes. Not office staff, not domestic staff. Not from any of the very different cultures concerned – British, Nigerian, Polish, Ghanaian, Uzbek. And if I had “instructed” any of them to lie down on the bed, the reaction of all of them would certainly have switched from humour to “F… Off”.
Which is as it should be.
The position of a senior British diplomat to a Ghanaian member of their domestic staff is possibly one of even greater power and authority compared to that of a Scottish First Minister to any Scottish government sector employee. Simple authority cannot compel compliance with such obviously unorthodox instruction.
I do however recall an occasion when I invited a young woman, not working for me in any sense, to my hotel bedroom after an event in Lodz, Poland. We both understood what an invitation to a bedroom that late at night meant, and as soon as we closed the door behind us I kissed her, passionately, which she welcomed. I did not ask her permission beforehand, indeed there was no prior verbal exchange at all about the possibility of a physical relationship developing. That is not in the least unusual in human relationships, and I despise the drive to make such matters coldly transactional. In that particular instance, for example, we remain friends 25 years on.
Not one of us would be able effectively to clear our names against allegations made years after the event, of an incident which allegedly occurred with no independent witnesses. As outsiders, we can only refer to our own experience to judge the likelihood of the tale which is told. For reasons explained in the first paragraph, I happen to have experience of the peculiar circumstance of hosting large public events in my own home with the assistance of public sector staff who worked for me. Few of you reading this will have analogous experience, as it is an unusual position to be in.
And I smell horseshit.