Jeremy Hunt urges diplomats to speak without 'fear or favour' in wake of Sir Kim Darroch row

Posted On: 
11th July 2019

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has urged the UK's diplomats around the world to continue to speak without "fear or favour" in the wake of Sir Kim Darroch's resignation.

Jeremy Hunt has pledged his support for the diplomatic service in the wake of the trans-atlantic row

Mr Hunt said staff in the Foreign Office were the "best of Britain" after the UK's ambassador to Washington's was forced to quit over leaked cables in which he branded Donald Trump's administration "inept" and "uniquely dysfunctional".

On Wednesday, the Foreign Office's top diplomat, Sir Simon McDonald, held an all-staff meeting to "express solidarity" with Sir Kim.

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The outgoing ambassador said it had become "impossible" for him to continue in the role after President Trump branded him a "very stupid guy" and said he would no longer have any contact with him.

Whitehall sources said Sir Kim's decision had been partly influenced by Boris Johnson's refusal to back him during a televised Tory leadership debate with Mr Hunt.

In a message sent to the Whitehall department on Thursday, the Foreign Secretary vowed to support diplomats, describing the job as "one of the most honourable choices".

"This phrase is used too liberally, but you are all the best of Britain," he said.  "Whilst a diplomat’s life brings perks, it is undoubtedly true that with the breadth of intellect and talent in our service, many of you could have had your pick of far more lucrative roles in life. 

"But you chose this path because of a desire to represent your country abroad, one of the most honourable choices anyone could make.

"The twin roles you perform of speaking truth to power and standing up for British interests have never been more vital.  I remember meeting a veteran Chinese politician who gave me some of the best advice of my career: ‘Every time somebody who works for you speaks up to disagree with you, remember that they are risking a bit of their own career to help yours.’"  

"Sir Kim Darroch embodied this trait, and all of us are deeply proud of the distinguished service he gave us over many years."

Sir Simon confirmed on Wednesday that the police were involved in the investigation into the "unprecendented" disclosure of the top secret diplomatic communitcations.

Mr Hunt added: "So please keep speaking up without fear or favour, remembering that the UK Government alone will determine appointments based on our national interest alone. As Foreign Secretary, and a proud leader of the world’s greatest diplomatic service, I want you to know that you will always get all the support you need to carry out your vital work. I will ensure you get it."

The message of support from Mr Hunt comes after Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan accused Boris Johnson of throwing Sir Kim "under the bus" after he refused to defend him.

Sir Alan said the Tory frontrunner had shown "contemptible negligence" in refusing to back the British diplomat against the White House.

"He's basically thrown this fantastic diplomat under a bus to serve his own personal interests," he said.

Mr Johnson later expressed "regret" over Sir Kim's choice to resign, saying he was a "superb diplomat".

But he also said it was "bizarre" to suggest that his comments had led to the ambassador's resignation.