News: Sir Kim Darroch’s resignation: Is Boris Johnson to blame?

News: Sir Kim Darroch’s resignation: Is Boris Johnson to blame?

Another Lincolnshire Highlights news story…

After private comments he made about Donald Trump were leaked, the UK’s ambassador to the US, Sir Kim Darroch, has resigned from his position.

Trump has targets his Twitter fury on Sir Kim since confidential emails to the Foreign Office where he described the president’s administration as “clumsy and inept” were made public.

Criticism is being directed at Boris Johnson for failing to back the ambassador when asked about the situation after Darroch’s resignation letter said staying in his position was now “impossible”.

The Claim

The Independent reports that Darroch’s decision to resign was prompted by likely next prime minister Johnson’s refusal to support him during a leadership debate. 

Both Johnson and Tory leadership rival Jeremy Hunt were asked about Darroch’s situation, Hunt said the ambassador would have his backing but Johnson repeatedly failed to make the same guarantee and many believe it is this that caused Darroch’s resignation.

Alan Duncan MP, a junior minister in the Foreign Office, described Johnson’s inability to support Darroch as “contemptible”, arguing that he had “basically thrown our ambassador under a bus”.

Sir Kim Darroch
Sir Kim Darroch

If Trump’s Twitter tirade hadn’t made Darroch’s position untenable then a lack of support from the man who is almost certain to be the UK’s next prime minister was the final straw. If the next prime minister wasn’t able to stand up for the British ambassador then what hope did he have?

Writing in the Financial Times, Robert Shrimsley argues that the Darroch resignation is a sign that even the Foreign Office has become tainted by the increasingly partisan nature of British politics, with reactions to the incident influenced by positions on Brexit.

He wrote that Leave supporters “will be delighted” at the opportunity to remove Darroch, who was the UK’s ambassador to the EU between 2007 and 2012, and replace him with someone closer aligned to their beliefs when they should be concerned that confidential information has been leaked regardless of whose career it threatens.

The Counter Claim

Johnson insisted the idea that his failure to back Darroch led to the ambassador’s resignation was “bizarre”, saying he was a “great supporter of Kim’s” from his time as foreign secretary.

On the subject of his failure to commit support to Darroch during a recent leadership interview he said he had felt it was wrong to “drag public servants’ careers into the arena”.

It may be that Darroch’s situation was untenable whether or not Johnson supported him, with CNN reporting that Trump’s furious outburst at the ambassador on Twitter likely sealed his fate.

The president said Darroch was “not liked or well respected in the US” and made it clear he had become persona non grata among American diplomatic circles and saying they would no longer deal with him.

Trump’s comments came before the leadership debate where Johnson repeatedly refused to support Darroch, so the ambassador’s fate may have been sealed whether or not the likely next prime minister was willing to stand up for the diplomat. 

An ambassador whose assigned country won’t deal with them is essentially unable to do their job, making resignation or replacement the only realistic option for maintaining diplomatic ties. 

The Facts

While most expect the job of picking the UK’s next ambassador to the US will fall to Theresa May’s replacement, the departing prime minister is considering making the appointment as one of her final acts in office.

In part this would be to ensure the UK isn’t without a diplomatic connection to its most powerful ally but it would also prevent Johnson from being able to make the decision. 

The British government are also focused on identifying the leaker. Confidential emails were leaked to Isabel Oakeshott of the Mail on Sunday and Downing Street would dearly like to know the who and why of the matter.

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Foreign Office permanent under-secretary Sir Simon McDonald said they would “pursue the culprit with all the means at our disposal”, saying the leaker was “guilty of the worst breach of trust” in his career. McDonald said he was “bracing” himself for more damaging leaks of confidential information.

The government have held “initial discussions” with the police over an investigation into the identity of the leaker. They want to know the motives behind the leak and how private communications from the Foreign Office were obtained.

The Guardian reports that the person who leaked the confidential information could be liable for prosecution under the Official Secrets Act. If the leaker is found to “without lawful authority make a damaging disclosure” then they could be prosecuted. 



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