Boris Johnson says it is 'bizarre' to suggest his behaviour caused ambassador to quit
Boris Johnson has dismissed accusations that his failure to defend Britain’s ambassador to Washington over the leaking of top-secret cables prompted him to resign.
Sir Kim Darroch confirmed he was quitting the role amid a storm over leaked messages in which he described Donald Trump's administration as "inept" and "uniquely dysfunctional".
The comments infuriated the US President, who branded the ambassador “very stupid” and said his government would no longer have any dealings with him.
Whitehall sources claimed that Sir Kim had decided to stand down after Mr Johnson failed to back him during Tuesday night's live TV debate with Tory leadership rival Jeremy Hunt.
And Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan said his former boss had thrown the highly-respected 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," he told the BBC.
But Mr Johnson told The Sun: “I can’t believe they’re trying to blame me for this.
"It seems bizarre to me. I’m a great supporter of Kim’s. I worked very well with him for years.
“I spoke to him just now to offer my good wishes. I think that he’s done a superb job.
“I’d be very surprised that’s the construction placed on events.”
When asked why he failed to offer his support in the head-to-head against Mr Hunt, he responded: “I don’t think it’s right to drag public servants’ careers into the arena in that way.
“I thought it was most odd that the career of particular servant should suddenly become a test case within a TV debate.”
Mr Johnson’s refusal to show his support was branded “regrettable” by former Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office, Sir Simon Fraser.
Meanwhile ex-UK ambassador to the US, Sir Nigel Sheinwald, said Sir Kim would have been “worried” by Theresa May’s likely successor failing to back him despite the US President’s “intemperate” comments.
MAY 'CANNOT TIE HANDS'
Elsewhere, The Times has reported allies of Mr Johnson warning Theresa May that she must not “tie the hands” of her successor by appointing a new ambassador before she leaves Number 10 in a fortnight.
A senior ally of Mr Johnson said: “With two weeks to go before the new Prime Minister takes over it would seem rather odd if she plunged in and appointed someone.
“It’s such an important decision you would think it would be made by the new Prime Minister.”
Steve Baker, a leading Tory eurosceptic and supporter of Mr Johnson, said: “It is absolutely vital that our ambassador is able to make a strong, heartfelt case for our future status as an independent trading nation and work with Congress.
“With all that in mind a new ambassador must be appointed by the new Prime Minister.
“It would be totally unacceptable in such circumstances to tie the future Prime Minister’s hands.”