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Boris Johnson refuses to defy Donald Trump’s bid to oust UK's ambassador

Mirror logo Mirror 09/07/2019 Ben Glaze & Pippa Crerar
a group of people standing in front of a window: MANDATORY CREDIT: ITV
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Handout photo issued by ITV of (left to right)Julie Etchingham and Conservative party leadership candidates Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, during a head-to-head debate hosted by ITV at the dock10 studios, MediaCityUK in Salford. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Tuesday July 9, 2019. See PA story POLITICS Tories. Photo credit should read: Matt Frost/ITV/PA Wire

NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder. © PA MANDATORY CREDIT: ITV EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR USE AFTER 8TH AUGUST 2019 Handout photo issued by ITV of (left to right)Julie Etchingham and Conservative party leadership candidates Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, during a head-to-head debate hosted by ITV at the dock10 studios, MediaCityUK in Salford. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Tuesday July 9, 2019. See PA story POLITICS Tories. Photo credit should read: Matt Frost/ITV/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

Slippery Boris Johnson has refused to defy Donald Trump’s bid to oust the UK’s man in Washington – after rival Jeremy Hunt made a firm pledge backing the ambassador.

The frontrunner for No10 failed six times to say whether he would keep Sir Kim Darroch in place, after the US President stepped up his campaign to boot out Britain’s most senior diplomat.

Cowardly Johnson also refused to condemn Trump for criticising Theresa May in a series of petulant tweets.

Video: Johnson and Hunt clash in British PM debate (Reuters)

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Earlier Mr Hunt had slapped down “disrespectful” Trump in an unprecedented Love Actually-style breach of transatlantic protocol, warning: “Allies need to treat each other with respect.”

But in last night’s ITV showdown between the rivals for No10, Johnson would only say of Trump’s attack on the PM: “I don’t think that is necessarily the right thing for him to do.”

Labour MP Stephen Doughty said: “Boris shows himself for what he is – a coward, deeply unpatriotic, and utterly unfit to take on the role of PM and Minister for the Civil Service.

Gallery: Boris Johnson: Career in pictures (Photo Services)

“It’s clear where his loyalties lie – and they aren’t with our fantastic civil service and diplomats.”

Mr Hunt earlier gave his firm backing to Sir Kim, the target of Trump’s fury following an embarrassing leak of confidential diplomatic memos in which he criticised Trump and his administration.

The Foreign Secretary insisted: “If I become PM, our Ambassador stays.”

a man in a suit standing in front of a stage © PA

He spoke out after the US President said in a series of furious tweets: “The wacky Ambassador that the UK foisted upon the United States is not someone we are thrilled with, a very stupid guy.

“He should speak to his country, and Prime Minister May, about their failed Brexit negotiation, and not be upset with my criticism of how badly it was handled.

“I told Theresa May how to do that deal, but she went her own foolish way – was unable to get it done. A disaster! I don’t know the Ambassador but have been told he is a pompous fool.”

Boris Johnson wearing a suit and tie: Boris Johnson would not answer the question © PA Boris Johnson would not answer the question

Responding to the outburst, Mr Hunt tweeted: “Friends speak frankly so I will: these comments are disrespectful and wrong to our Prime Minister and my country.

“Your diplomats give their private opinions to [Secretary of State] Mike Pompeo and so do ours! You said the UK/US alliance was the greatest in history and I agree.

“But allies need to treat each other with respect as Theresa May has always done with you. Ambassadors are appointed by the UK government and if I become PM our Ambassador stays.”

Video: Britain hunts source of anti-Trump diplomatic leak (Al Jazeera)

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But the Prime Minister’s official spokesman insisted she had “full confidence” in Sir Kim.

He added: “The PM’s view is that he’s a highly respected and dutiful public servant.”

Downing Street revealed that she had “let him know personally” that he had her backing and would be staying in post.

Mr Trump’s tweets came less than 24 hours after he said the US would no longer deal with the top British diplomat.

Journalists view the debate between Conservative Party leadership candidates Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt hosted by ITV at the dock10 studios, MediaCityUK in Salford. Journalists view the debate between Conservative Party leadership candidates Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt hosted by ITV at the dock10 studios, MediaCityUK in Salford.

Sir Kim did not attend a White House meeting with Ivanka Trump yesterday, alongside Trade Secretary Liam Fox.

No10 claimed he would be “supporting” Mr Fox in other ways during the visit.

And he was blocked from a diplomatic dinner with the Emir of Qatar on Monday, which Mr Trump was attending.

Sources in Washington have told the Mirror that Mr Trump is adamant he wants Sir Kim gone.

Jeremy Hunt wearing a suit and tie © PA

However, many have rallied against the notion of the US leader dictating who should serve British interests in the States.

Contrary to Trump’s claim that Sir Kim was “not liked or well thought of within the US”, he is popular with many of Mr Trump’s staff.

Whitehall sources refused to confirm speculation that Sir Kim had offered to leave his post four months early.

Much now depends on whether the US President tries to block all access to US officials or if the row subsides over the summer.

Mr Trump’s personal attacks blow apart diplomatic convention and throw down a challenge to whoever takes over at No10 next month.

The US President has previously said that Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage would make a good ambassador to Washington.

Journalists view the debate between Conservative Party leadership candidates Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt hosted by ITV at the dock10 studios, MediaCityUK in Salford. © Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire/PA Images Journalists view the debate between Conservative Party leadership candidates Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt hosted by ITV at the dock10 studios, MediaCityUK in Salford.

But any attempt to replace an experienced diplomat with a political appointment would be a major blow to the independent civil service.

Mr Johnson, the frontrunner to succeed Mrs May, boasted about his “good” relationship with Mr Trump – even though he undermined the UK.

He told the BBC: “It’s very important we have a strong relationship with our most important ally.”


Former Tory Foreign Secretary William Hague said the new PM must stand by Sir Kim.

He said: “You can’t change an ambassador at the demand of a host country.”

Downing Street has launched a formal investigation into the unprecedented leak, with senior Tory figures urging them to call in police and security services.

Journalists and commentators view the debate between Conservative Party leadership candidates Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt hosted by ITV at the dock10 studios, MediaCityUK in Salford. © Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire/PA Images Journalists and commentators view the debate between Conservative Party leadership candidates Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt hosted by ITV at the dock10 studios, MediaCityUK in Salford.

It said the UK and US still share a “special and enduring” relationship.

The confidential emails contained a string of criticisms of Mr Trump and his administration and said the White House was “uniquely dysfunctional” and divided under his Presidency.

Sir Kim, who became ambassador to the US in January 2016 about a year before Trump took office, questioned whether the White House “will ever look competent” but also warned the US president should not be written off.

The emails, dating from 2017, said rumours of “infighting and chaos” in the administration were mostly true, and policy on sensitive issues such as Iran was “incoherent, chaotic”.

“I love that word relationship. Covers all manners of sins, doesn’t it? I fear that this has become a bad relationship.

a person holding a sign: Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt were greeted by the Mirror's fox and chicken © James Speakman/Mercury Press Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt were greeted by the Mirror's fox and chicken

“A relationship based on the President taking exactly what he wants, and casually ignoring all those things that really matter to Britain.

“I’m not going to be so presumptuous,” he told ITV Julie Etchingham.

“What I will say, is that I and I alone will decide who takes important and politically sensitive jobs such as the UK ambassador to the US.”

The Tory favourite also refused to condemn Mr Trump’s remarks about Mrs May.

“It’s very important that we should have a close friendship, close partnership with the US,” he said.

“He was dragged into a British political debate in the way he sometimes is, I don’t think that is necessarily the right thing for him to do.”

In contrast, Mr Hunt said the US President’s comments about the PM were “unacceptable and I don’t think he should have made them”.

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