Boris Johnson, the man likely to become UK prime minister within weeks, today denied playing any role in the departure of Britain’s ambassador to Washington, who quit after coming under attack from President Donald Trump.
British politicians from both government and opposition parties have accused Johnson of spinelessness for failing to defend envoy Kim Darroch, and said the removal of a British ambassador because of pressure from a foreign leader was a severe blow to British diplomacy and power.
“This is a direct challenge to a sovereign nation,” said Tom Tugendhat, a Conservative lawmaker who heads Parliament’s foreign affairs committee. He added that Britain “shouldn’t be bullied.”
Johnson told The Sun newspaper it was “bizarre” people were blaming him for the departure of Darroch, who resigned following a furor over leaked diplomatic cables which labeled Trump’s White House dysfunctional, clumsy and inept.
Trump responded by branding Darroch a “pompous fool” and cut off the administration’s contact with him.
Darroch announced his resignation yesterday, saying it had become “impossible for me to carry out my role as I would like.”
Politicians including Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Johnson’s rival for the prime minister’s job, criticised Trump’s tirades and defended Darroch.
But Johnson merely stressed his good relations with the White House and the importance of the trans-Atlantic relationship. Darroch resigned hours after Johnson made those comments.
“I can’t believe they’re trying to blame me for this,” Johnson told The Sun. “I’m a great supporter of Kim’s. I worked very well with him for years.”
Conservative lawmaker Nicholas Soames, however, said Johnson had “hung Kim Darroch out to dry … and I was ashamed to see it.”
Opposition Labour Party legislator Liz McInnes called Johnson’s behaviour “the most craven and despicable act of cowardice I have seen from any candidate for public office, let alone someone running to be prime minister.”
Labour called for Prime Minister Theresa May to appoint Darroch’s successor before she leaves office later this month, to prevent Johnson from putting his own appointee in the post.