Boris Johnson under fire after UK ambassador to US resigns

Tory leadership candidate accused of throwing Kim Darroch ‘under a bus’ after Trump row

British prime minister Theresa May says that it is "a matter of great regret" that the UK's ambassador to the United States, Kim Darroch, has resigned over the leaking of classified memos about the Trump administration. Video: UK Parliament TV

 

Boris Johnson has come under furious criticism at Westminster after Kim Darroch resigned as ambassador to Washington over the fallout from his leaked criticism of Donald Trump. MPs in all parties blamed Mr Johnson’s failure to stand by Sir Kim in Tuesday’s Conservative leadership debate for the ambassador’s decision to resign.

Foreign office minister Alan Duncan, who is backing Jeremy Hunt for the leadership, accused Mr Johnson of throwing Sir Kim under the bus to serve his own personal interests.

“I’m upset and angry. And there are a lot of people here in the Commons who are very, very angry and feel he has lost so much respect for having done what he’s done. His disregard for Sir Kim Darroch and his refusal to back him was in my view pretty contemptible, but also not in the interests of the country he’s trying to lead,” he told the BBC.

Mr Trump said this week he would no longer deal with Sir Kim after the Mail on Sunday published extracts from leaked diplomatic telegrams in which the ambassador described the president as insecure and his White House as dysfunctional. Theresa May defended Sir Kim and in Tuesday’s debate Mr Hunt said he would leave him in Washington as ambassador until his scheduled departure at the end of this year.

Mr Johnson refused repeatedly to make the same commitment, trumpeting instead the warmth of his relationship with Mr Trump. Mr Johnson’s supporters, including former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab, were openly critical of the ambassador, calling for a “reset” in Britain’s relationship with the US.

Sir Kim resigned on Wednesday morning in a letter to Simon McDonald, permanent secretary at the foreign office, saying he could no longer carry out his duties effectively.

“Since the leak of official documents from this embassy, there has been a great deal of speculation surrounding my position and the duration of my remaining term as ambassador,” he wrote. 

“I want to put an end to that speculation. The current situation is making it impossible for me to carry out my role as I would like.”

‘Lick-spittle response’

Sir Simon told the Commons foreign affairs committee that “nothing like this has ever happened before” and that it was unprecedented for a friendly country to refuse to deal with a British ambassador.

“This is not the first time a British ambassador has left post or resigned because of the actions of the host government but usually they are governments with whom we have problematic relations rather than friendly relations,” he said.

“The last time I know that we had difficulty with the United States was in 1856 when the incumbent was accused of trying to recruit Americans to fight on the British side in the Crimean War.”

Mr Johnson telephoned Sir Kim on Wednesday to express “regret” over his resignation but Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said the Conservative leadership frontrunner had shamed Britain with his “lick-spittle response” to Mr Trump’s bullying of the ambassador.

“Sir Kim Darroch should hold his head high for the wonderful job he has done representing our country, while Boris Johnson should go and hang his head in shame. He claims to regard Winston Churchill as his hero. But just imagine Churchill allowing this humiliating, servile, sycophantic indulgence of the American president’s ego to go unchallenged,” she said.

“Johnson likes to accuse opponents of being ‘supine invertebrate jellies’. How does he think he looks today? If this is what represents the future of leadership in our country, then it is all the more reason why we must force Johnson to call an election, and let the British people decide if such an obsequious weakling should be our prime minister.”