If she really were ‘unhelpful, antisocial, unstable, inept, weak, rude and incompetent’ why sending her to ERITREA as an ambassador other than transferring her to the Border Force?
By Tom Kelly,
A British ambassador is suing the Foreign Office after she was allegedly described as ‘wobbly’ and ‘out of her depth’.
Amanda Tanfield is claiming £50,000 over comments said to have been made when she attended a training course shortly before she was posted to Eritrea in the Horn of Africa.
She is also suing the college where the course was held, saying remarks by tutors implied she was ‘antisocial, unstable, rude and incompetent’ and may have damaged her 24-year diplomatic career.
Miss Tanfield, 51 – who helped draw up a report on human rights abuses in Iraq used by Tony Blair in his dossier making the case for the 2003 invasion – was among 16 diplomats on the three-day course at a college run by the Ashridge Trust.
Participants on the training programme, run on behalf of the diplomatic service, were reassured they could speak freely, and that ‘they were not being judged or marked [and] that “what was said here stays here”’, papers lodged at the High Court allege.
‘A cast-iron guarantee was being given to all participants that their confidentiality and privacy as to their conduct, performance, contributions and participation… would be paramount and respected,’ the claim says.
Miss Tanfield says that she was left in ‘shock and disbelief’ after the course in April last year when in a phone call her boss at the Foreign Office told her the feedback from trainers at the college.
A memo compiled by Foreign Office staff from the comments allegedly said the tutors had found Miss Tanfield ‘initially unhelpful’ and ‘wobbly’ and that they were concerned about her ‘lack of confidence and resilience’.
They accused her of not taking a full part in the course and ‘further commented that when she did participate in the course it was [only] to make an ill-judged comment that got incredulous looks from co-attendees’.
These glances ‘further undermined her confidence; made her withdraw further and become a bit passive-aggressive’. The claim alleges she was also accused of failing to socialise during break times.
Miss Tanfield, who has previously headed the Foreign Office’s Drugs and International Crime Department and been head of Iraq policy, lives with her husband Matthew Connolly in Asmara – the capital of Eritrea, which gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993.
A picture on her Facebook page shows her relaxing on an armchair making two V-signs. Another shows her and Mr Connolly holding a small Union Flag adorned with the royal coat of arms.
The ambassador claims the tutors’ comments amounted to calling her ‘uncooperative, unhelpful, antisocial, unstable, inept, weak, rude, incompetent and totally devoid of resilience’. She says they suggest that ‘her ability and aptitude for her ambassadorial posting was seriously questionable’.
Miss Tanfield denies the flaws allegedly attributed to her and says in her claim that she does not recognise the trainers’ account of the course.
She accepts that she had to attend to urgent phone calls and emails during tea breaks, but otherwise insists she got on well with participants.
In her High Court claim, she is alleging libel and slander against the Ashridge Trust, which operates the college at a stately home near Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire. She also claims that the trust breached her right to confidentiality by passing the comments to the Foreign Office, which allegedly compounded the college’s misuse of private information by circulating it between officials.
A spokesman for the Ashridge Trust said: ‘We are vigorously defending the action, which we consider to be without foundation.’
The Foreign Office said: ‘The matter is subject to ongoing litigation and it would not therefore be appropriate to comment.’