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Movers & shakers

At the top of their political professional games, local resident Elizabeth Linder and her good friend Matthew Jamison, are often to be found around and about Belgravias boltholes. Tom Hardman dives in to learn more about these intriguing characters and their professional lives

Matthew Jamison
If it was socially acceptable to scribble a CV with the same imaginative licence short stories boast of, then mine would surely resemble Matthew Jamisons. A man who possesses an M.Phil from Peterhouse, founds The Henry Jackson Society, serves on the advisory board of YouGov, works as an adviser to foreign policy committees in parliament, co-authors books published by CUP and ends up as a Consultant Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, clearly isnt a dolt. Our first meeting was postponed because of parliamentary obligations so I ask him what exactly he was doing there. I think when it comes to the big foreign policy issues, Syria for instance, the public would be surprised at the level of knowledge displayed in parliament. Its my job to ensure the debate is an informed one. And firmly embedded in the matrix of Whitehall, Matthew is just the right man to inform it. A fellow, I pipe, its got very academic airs about it, no? Well its every professors dream a university without students! comes Jamisons reply. Matthews lucky break occurred when he was offered a seminal role in the Arab Peace Initiative. He never looked back. I think its because we offer politicians and policy-makers a semi-official environment that we can attract some of the bigger names. And when it comes to wining and dining the top brass, sometimes only the best Belgravia has to offer is good enough. Indeed, it was not so long ago I saw Matthew hobnobbing at the B.R.A. summer party. Wheres next on the agenda? He humbly deflects the question. It is not me but one of my best friends, Elizabeth, you need to talk to here. I reckon shes the stuff Presidents are made of.

Elizabeth Linder
So what exactly is Elizabeths role? a colleague enquires when I mention meeting the effervescent Elizabeth Linder at a Belgravia summer party. I guess Id describe her as the closest thing Facebook has to a government envoy, I try to explain. Ha! Whats her next step? Establishing non-member observer state status at the UN?! The joke is on us, of course. In a world in which the lines between virtual and real are becoming ever more blurred, heads of state and politicos in general want advice on how they should use the internet. Is a PR attitude too formal and distant? Is an honest, candid approach too outr? Elizabeth bridges this gap, stepping in to lend government officials a hand so that they can utilise Facebook in an effective and transparent manner, reaching out to the people. Elizabeth enters in a trench coat wrap; her hair beautifully coiffed. I feel Im less greeting an American Belgravian than a belle of the French Resistance. With a degree in Italian and French from Princeton University, Elizabeth found herself a victim of Googles billiard ball business model: they took people from all sorts of disciplines: science, philosophy, religion, engineering, information technology and just threw them all together. I was so out of my comfort-zone. But the Californian has clearly thrived. She spends her time jetting around the world meeting up with heads of state, ambassadors and embassy representatives, Members of Parliament, royal households, academics, city mayors, national police forces, civil society leaders and e-governance units. Just as we are getting into full conversational flow theres a phone call. She briefly takes it. German elections, she excuses herself, I think [Angela] Merkel has posted a photo of Elton John. In comparison, my day begins to feel banal. On her return, I go for the jugular and ask whether Facebook felt embarrassed after the Arab Spring debacle during which politicians co-opted social media firms into a brand of neo-conservatism. Yes, I think even Mark did a speech on that. We are a global company. We do not have a side, she says. Shes off to see Instagrams co-founder Kevin Systrom next. As you do. Just before she goes, I ask what most of her advice to the top brass entails. Be useful! she exclaims. Social media allows democracy to feel far more raw and direct. If the people deem the middle political layers superfluous then everybody loses. How true.

Jamison with the 14th Dalai Lama