7 OCTOBER 1972, Page 16

Playing the devil's advocate

Patrick Reilly

The Memoirs of Lord Gladwyn (VVeidenfeld and Nicolson £4.50) Lord Gladwyn, biding his time before publishing the memoirs of a brilliant diplomatic career, has perhaps aimed his book more at students of foreign affairs than at the general reader. He has drawn it largely from his own papers, bound up by some percipient archivist who recognised the most powerful mind of an exceptionally able Foreign Office generation and thus made a collection of the work of a whole career for which there can be few parallels in the Service. Some of it is stiff going: and sometimes one would like to read the minutes on these papers. Can a glimpse of one be caught in an impatient reference to their length in Cadogan's diaries? From early in his career Gladwyn was possessed by an urge to think and look ahead'. This book records how he did so, with intelligence and integrity and a courage which was perhaps the quality those who worked for him admired most.

While the book is thus primarily a recard of ideas, it nevertheless gives a lively picture of the man: one which may surprise some who do not know him well. A man basically modest, humorous and ready to laugh at himself, his book has no malice and little criticism of individuals. There is no self-pity, although he had his disappointments, especially failure to achieve his ambition to be Parliamentary UnderSecretary, a post for which he was in many ways so well equipped. His judgements are fair and often geneross. There are no revelations and hardly any gossip. There are brief passages of vivid narrative, such as the account of his first meeting With de Gaulle, when he had to persuade the General to amend his second great broadcast from London. There is skilful characterisation, as of Dalton and Bevin, with both of wham he was a favourite. Sometimes he tantalises us. He says that he would record, among other incidents at San Francisco, how he discovered that one • or Attlee's favourite works was Sorel's Reflexions sur la violence : but he doesn't. Perhaps that is for another book.

His enduring interest has been the politics of, and the relations between, the states of Western Europe. Er•ding his boOk, he asks whether he has had any real influence on events. Many officials must have asked themselves this question, but few can equal his record of constructive contribution to policy-making. He played a major part in the preparations for the post-war settlement, for the United Nations, for the Brussels Treaty, for the Atlantic Treaty and NATO. If he had been at the Foreign Office during the middle 'fifties, could he have changed the course of that disastrous period? He would certainly have tried.

From Paris he could not influence policy much. Like others before and after him, he was too often "devil's advecate and prisoner's friend," an unpopular role. He does not claim, nor do I remember, that in 1955-56 the Embassy took the lead in urging full participation-in the negotiations for the EEC. Indochina and Algeria, communism and neutralism in France, filled our thoughts. It was the traumatic experience of Suez which brought Gladwyn's final conversion to the cause of British membership of a supranational body in Western Europe to which he has since devoted himself, and in which for him, despite those formative years in-the FO's first Economic Section, the political element has always far outweighed the economic.

If he had stayed on in yaris after 1960, could he have influenced de Gaulle whom he knew so well, or our own handling of the negotiations? Probably not: but again, he would have tried. His retirement has been full and active. The cause which he has served so faithfully is at last in sight of success, even if the gingerbread has lost some of its gilt. This is the book of a great public servant. It should enhance his reputation.

Sir Patrick Reilly • was Ambassador in Paris, 1965-1968