Byline Times is thrilled to announce a new column by former diplomat Alexandra Hall Hall only in its monthly print edition. Here she explains what readers can expect

I am excited and honoured to announce that I am to become a regular columnist for the monthly Byline Times print edition.

In keeping with my new found freedom as an ex-diplomat, I hope to use the column to lift the curtain behind modern diplomacy – for example, to explain what goes on behind the scenes in the run up to summits, or visits, or ministerial decisions. I will also comment on topical foreign policy issues and challenges, and reflect on what they might mean for British diplomacy. 

I will also try to pepper my reports with the odd anecdote from my own career as a diplomat, either to enliven the material, or shed light on a current problem.

As Byline Times is an independent newspaper, beholden to no one, and I am now an independent British citizen, also beholden to no one, I relish the freedom to speak at last. 

I do not expect all readers to agree with my opinions or comments, some of which may be provocative, controversial or disappointing. But, I will try to speak as honestly as I know, and by drawing on my own direct experience, try to ground the articles in some reality. 

I confess to some nervousness in taking on this role – since I have little previous journalistic experience, and will be writing alongside far more polished columnists. However, I will be guided by one of the best pieces of advice I ever received as a diplomat, by a colleague who became one of the most senior female diplomats in British history, shortly before I took up my posting as Ambassador to Tbilisi. 

Although I had won the appointment on merit, and had already occupied several other senior positions at the same grade, it was still a big step up for me to become an actual Ambassador. I was privately worried about whether I would be able to hold my own in senior diplomatic company or would say or do something stupid out of sheer nervousness.

She told me that, before she went into any important meeting, she privately rallied her own confidence by telling herself ‘I may not know everything they know, but I do know what I know’.

I was so impressed by this bit of advice that I had it printed out on a little card which I carried in my purse everywhere I went in Georgia. In fact, I still have it with me now, and often use it to this day to bolster my confidence before I give a speech or interview. 

By the same token, while I certainly will not know everything which readers of the Byline Times will know, and may make some mistakes, I will try to ground my columns on things which I do know.   

While I will continue to write articles for Byline Times published on this website, my new column will be exclusive for subscribers to the print edition. The first one, ‘Alcohol, Cholesterol, and Protocol’, will be available to read in the August newspaper.

Alexandra Hall Hall is a former British diplomat with more than 30 years experience, with postings in Bangkok, Washington, Delhi, Bogota and Tbilisi. She resigned from the Foreign Office in December 2019 because she felt unable to represent the Government’s position on Brexit with integrity


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