Lord Simon McDonald pursued an impressive career as a British diplomat, culminating in his role as Permanent Under Secretary and Head of the Diplomatic Service at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office from 2015 to 2020.

Simon joined the British Diplomatic Service in 1982 and served in Berlin, Jeddah, Riyadh, Bonn, Washington and Tel Aviv, where he was British Ambassador to Israel From 2003 to 2006.

He was the Prime Minister’s Foreign Policy Adviser and Head of Foreign and Defence Policy in the Cabinet Office from 2007 to 2010 and then served as the British Ambassador to Berlin from 2010 to 2015.

He stepped down from his role as permanent secretary at the FCO in September 2020, and in his first public remarks said of the timing of the spending reduction (0.7% of GDP to 0.5%) “could not have been worse”, taking place just months after the Department for International Development (DfID) was merged into the Foreign Office (FCO).

Simon may have been commenting on life as a civil servant, politician, or executive when he said “Speed is the hardest part of being a leader today: everything moves so fast that there’s too little time for reflection.” He became a crossbench life peer in January 2021 as Baron McDonald of Salford, and made his maiden speech in March 2021.