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Sat, 6 June 2020

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Foreign Office minister says Boris Johnson threw departing UK ambassador 'under a bus'

Foreign Office minister says Boris Johnson threw departing UK ambassador 'under a bus'
4 min read

Boris Johnson threw the UK's outgoing ambassador to Washington "under a bus" by refusing to publicly back him over leaked cables criticising Donald Trump, a Foreign Office minister has said.

Sir Alan Duncan said he was "upset and angry" after Sir Kim Darroch confirmed he is standing down from the role amid a political storm over his comments, which were leaked to the Mail on Sunday.

Whitehall sources confirmed that the highly-respected ambassador had decided to quit after Mr Johnson failed to back him during Tuesday night's live TV debate with Tory leadership rival Jeremy Hunt.

President Trump had also severed all ties with Sir Kim after the cables - in which he described the US government as "inept" and "uniquely dysfunctional" - were published.

In a letter to Sir Simon McDonald, Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office, the ambassador said: "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. 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.

"Although my posting is not due to end until the end of this year, I believe in the current circumstances the responsible course is to allow the appointment of a new ambassador."

Reacting to the resignation, Sir Alan - who worked under Mr Johnson when he was Foreign Secretary - said: "I'm upset and angry. I think we have lost a supreme diplomat who was serving the interests of this country extremely well.

"He has behaved with enormous dignity in the face of a very, very unfair and unacceptable onslaught."

He added: "What I do know is that Boris Johnson, a former Foreign Secretary and he hopes to be the future Prime Minister, has basically thrown our top diplomat under the bus.

"His disregard for Sir Kim Darroch and his refusal to back him was pretty contemptible and not in the interests of the country he is hoping to lead."

Giving his own reaction to Sir Kim's departure, Mr Johnson said: "I think he was a superb, is a superb diplomat and I worked with him for many years.

"And I think that whoever leaked his diptels really has done a grave disservice to our civil servants, to people who give impartial advice to ministers.

"And I hope whoever it is is run down, caught and eviscerated quite frankly."

Denying he had failed to back the ambassador, he said: "No - on the contrary. My view is that it's wrong to drag civil servants into the political arena. That's what I think."

But Sir Alan Duncan hit back: "I think that is insincere guff. He failed to support him and it’s quite clear that his priorities are different, so I’m afraid that I have clearly formed the judgement that Boris Johnson has not behaved well on this, he’s not behaved how a leader should and he’s not behaved in our national interest and I say it again, he’s thrown Kim Darroch under the bus.”

Former diplomats also criticised Mr Johnson's behaviour.

Sir Simon Fraser, former Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office, said: "I think it is regrettable that Boris Johnson didn’t support him clearly in the debate, because we appoint our ambassadors to go overseas to represent the country, to represent the Government.

"Although Boris Johnson is not a member of this government, he has been a minister, he has been Foreign Secretary, he knows what this is all about and how diplomacy works and I think it would have been appropriate for him to support the ambassador."

And Sir Nigel Sheinwald, a former UK ambassador to Washington, told the BBC: "I don’t think he got the support he needed from across our political class and I’m sure those comments from Boris Johnson may well have played a factor in his ultimate decision to resign.

"I think the Prime Minister and others tried their best to offer their support to them, but the situation was rapidly getting out of control with the increasingly intemperate comments from Donald Trump, so I think what worried him was what would happen with a new Prime Minister who had made no commitment to him at all in the debate last night."

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