The Kee to good diplomacy

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The Independent Culture
There's no doubt that a career in the diplomatic service has its perks: free accommodation, job security, pension and the prospect of a "K" at the end of it all, and then you can spend your twilight years on Radio 4.

Over the years, retired diplomats and colonial civil servants have proved an invaluable resource for radio programmes - not just giving us the benefit of their experience on The World at One, but reminiscing about life in the Raj, in the South Seas, all over the world - most recently, in Gerald Butt's The Lion in the Sand, about Arabia. All too often, what you get are either jokey views of the quaint ways of the natives, or rather stuffy pronouncements from inside a diplomatic ivory tower.

Judging by its first programme, Foreign Postings (10.45pm R4) avoids the grosser pitfalls, offering hard political data, but with an individual slant. It's a sort of showcase for diplomatic talent, in which former ambassadors talk to Robert Kee about some of the big events they have witnessed.

The series will be concentrating on the fall of Communism; but it starts a little more recently, with Sir Rodric Braithwaite, formerly our man in Moscow, and his good lady wife remembering the attempted coup against Mikhail Gorbachev, and Gorbachev's mishandling of the affair. It turns out to be a fascinating mix of anecdote and opinion.

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