Major's aide to be ambassador to the US

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Christopher Meyer, currently Ambassador to Germany and for two years Prime Ministerial press secretary to John Major, was yesterday officially named as Britain's new envoy to the United States. He will take over in Washington this autumn from Sir John Kerr, who is to become Head of the Diplomatic Service, the top-ranking permanent post at the Foreign Office.

Given his short tenure in Bonn - he only took over in early March - the choice of Mr Meyer, 53 for what is generally regarded as the plum diplomatic job was initially something of a surprise. In fact it could prove to be inspired.

Zestful, gregarious and informal, he is ideally suited to project Tony Blair and New Labour in the US, which he knows well after a four-year stint as Minister in the Washington Embassy between 1989 and 1993. A further link is Jonathan Powell, once Mr Meyer's colleague in Washington, now Mr Blair's chief of staff.

The Foreign Office itself, meanwhile, will be mightily relieved that its most coveted post has not gone, as often in the past, to a political appointee from outside.

Travelling in the other direction across the Atlantic meanwhile is Mr Philip Lader, named by President Clinton to replace Admiral William Crowe as US Ambassador to the Court of St James. Mr Lader, who will require Senate confirmation, is an old friend of the President, most celebrated for founding the annual "Renaissance Weekends," held each New Year at a South Carolina resort. Part brainstorming sessions, part confessionals, they are attended by America's best and brightest, and Mr and Mrs Clinton are regulars.