Hit or Miss? Foreign Office apologises to Pope over 'blue skies' memo

Holy row The Government apologised to the Pope after an official document appearing to mock his forthcoming visit to Britain was obtained by The Sunday Telegraph.

It was sent out by a junior Foreign Office civil servant. The FCO said the memo was a 'foolish document' but stressed: 'The text was not cleared or shown to ministers or senior officials before circulation.' The UK ambassador to the Vatican met officials of the Holy See to express regret.


Nick Allan, Head of communications, Guardian News & Media

Putting to one side my feelings of incredulity that the 'Popegate' memo was written in the first place, it was a hit for the FCO in terms of the way it handled the ensuing train wreck.

It was a textbook piece of crisis comms: realising you've got a massive PR nightmare on your hands, and reacting quickly and decisively. The FCO ticked all the boxes with a penitent public apology, and the swift excommunication of the official concerned. This demonstrated to the Vatican that the Government had taken the issue very seriously indeed, and probably contributed to the uncharacteristically measured response from Rome.

Might this be a sign that (outgoing) comms director Ian Hargreaves has finally convinced a deeply resistant FCO of the need to embrace modern strategic comms techniques?


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