Further to your obituary of Sir Ray Whitney (7 September), some MPs do a great deal of good for Britain by keeping their international friendships, formed whether in a pre-Westminster incarnation, or in the course of parliamentary duties, in excellent repair, writes Tam Dalyell. Ray Whitney maintained contacts from his Foreign Office postings the world over, particularly in South America.
Throughout the 1990s, when we were officers of the (sparsely populated) All-Party South American Group, Whitney, David Viscount Montgomery of Alamein and I, accompanied pre-1997 by Jacques Arnold and post-1997 by Bob Blizzard, would give lunch twice a month when Parliament was in session to South American ambassadors or prominent people from South America. Whitney's ebullient, outgoing personality, combined with fluency in Spanish and passable Portuguese, and in particular an ability to be humorous with the mot juste in either language, impressed the South Americans. He formed many friendships, not least with the long-serving Brazilian Ambassador to London, Paulo Tarso Flecha de Lima, with whom he maintained his connection when he became Brazil's Ambassador in Washington.
No one did more to strive for a rapprochement with Argentina after 1982: "I wish my Conservative colleagues would remember that there are 2,000 Falkland Islanders and 100,000 Anglo-Argentines in Buenos Aires, readers of the English language Buenos Aires Herald." With his deep knowledge of Chile, Colombia, Peru. Uruguay, and, in particular, Venezuela, Whitney was very much an international South American. As Montgomery put it: "Ray and Sheila Whitney gave wonderful hospitality to many IPU delegations, and entertained superbly for Britain."Reuse content