Ministers and Foreign Office advice

By | Category: Travel rumblings

This morning our television screens have carried stories about Tui (Thomson and First Choice) bringing home its customers who have been holidaying in Kenya.

The reason?

Advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on Wednesday.

It appears that on Thursday, Tui issued instructions to bring everyone home. This morning the first people arrived; the remainder arrive tonight. That is very fast work.

What intrigues me is a story in Kenya’s Daily Nation which says that our Foreign Office says that the advice issued was taken at ministerial level. Assuming this is true, do iministers normally get involved in authorising this type of advice? I had always thought that advice from those on the ground at embassies, consulates and the intelligence services would be the determining factor. Why should ministers become involved?

Are holidays becoming politicised by the back door? Has this always happened and I – and others – were unaware?

Take a hypothetical and far-fetched idea. A general election is on the horizon. The government is behind in the polls but is pretty sure it can pick up votes by seeming to protect its people by issuing a “don’t travel” to a country that the populace has some doubts about anyway. It can say it would rather be wrong than put its peoples into possible jeopardy. If nothing happens in the country it can retract the advice saying the crisis is over. If something does happen, it wins plaudits for acting fast. And we wouldn’t know what the truth was because this sort of information is never released as it is a security issue.

The advice that a country gives to those of its nationals that travel should err on the side of caution. But to involve ministers or politicians of any persuasion is not an attractive thought ?

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