John Holmes (British diplomat)

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Person.png John Holmes (British diplomat)  Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Sir John Holmes at Chatham House 2016.jpg
Born29 April 1951
Alma materPreston Grammar School, Balliol College (Oxford)
SiblingsDavid Holmes
Member ofDitchley/UK, Ditchley/US, International Rescue Committee/Directors and Overseers
British diplomat. Board Member of the deep state Ditchley Foundation. Participated in the July 2019 pandemic exercise A Spreading Plague.

Employment.png UK/Chairman of the Electoral Commission

In office
January 2017 - Present

Employment.png Director of the Ditchley Foundation

In office
September 2010 - August 2016

Not to be confused with Canadian John Wendell Holmes or British John Holmes, leader of the British Special Forces.

Sir John Holmes is a British former diplomat and Ambassador to France who is the current Chairman of the Electoral Commission. He was Director of the deep state Ditchley Foundation 2010-2016, and participated in the July 2019 pandemic exercise A Spreading Plague.

Early life

Holmes was born on 29 April 1951 in Preston, in the north of England. He was educated at Preston Grammar School and Balliol College, Oxford. Holmes is a gifted linguist. He studied Greats at Oxford. He was brought up in Penwortham, a middle-class suburb of Preston, where he went to school at Crookings Lane Primary.

He was a member of Penwortham Congregational Tennis Club where he won the junior singles as a teenager. Holmes's father was an English teacher at Preston Grammar. His mother was also an educated woman but didn't work full-time. His elder brother David too was a pupil at Preston Grammar.


He entered the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in 1973. After spending three years as a desk officer in London, including a period of temporary duty at the British Mission to the UN in New York, he was appointed to the British Embassy in Moscow as a 3rd Secretary Chancery, and subsequently promoted 2nd Secretary.

On returning to the FCO in 1978, he first took up an appointment in the Near East and North Africa Department before becoming Assistant Private Secretary to the Foreign Secretary in 1982.

In 1984 Holmes was posted to the British Embassy in Paris as 1st Secretary (Economic). He returned to London in 1987 as Assistant Head of the Soviet Department and between 1989 and 1991 he was seconded to Thomas De La Rue & Co, before moving to India as Economic and Commercial Counsellor at the High Commission in New Delhi.

He returned to London in 1995, first as Head of the European Union Department in FCO and then as Private Secretary, and subsequently Principal Private Secretary to the Prime Minister. Between 1999 and autumn 2001, John Holmes was Ambassador to Portugal. He was Ambassador to France from October 2001 until 2007. From January 2007 to August 2010 he was Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, appointed by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.[1] In February 2008 after eight months of the blocking of the crossings into Gaza by the Israelis, Holmes described the situation of the people of Gaza as "grim and miserable" and pointed out they were living on a tenth of what had been available a year earlier.

In 2012, at the request of the Ministry of Defence, he conducted an Independent Medal Review of post 1945 campaign medals, his findings being accepted by the Government.[2]

Later life

He was director of the Ditchley Foundation from September 2010 to August 2016, succeeding Sir Jeremy Greenstock.[3] He became Chair of the Electoral Commission in January 2017.

Personal life

In 1976 he married Penelope Morris, an author and trustee of Women for Women UK;[4] the couple have three daughters: Sarah, Lucy and Emilie.


Events Participated in

A Spreading Plague14 February 201914 February 2019Germany
Munich Security Conference/2019
Tabletop simulation of a global biological warfare attack predicting an apocalyptic outcome. Included several senior pandemic planners. Held February 2019.
WEF/Annual Meeting/201126 January 201130 January 2011Switzerland2229 guests in Davos, with the theme: "Shared Norms for the New Reality".
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