London, July 10 Boris Johnson, the favourite to succeed Theresa May as British Prime Minister, has refused to rule out firing the UK ambassador to Washington who provoked the ire of US President Donald Trump.
In a televised debate on Tuesday, UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who is standing against Johnson for the leadership of the Conservative party, reiterated his support for Kim Darroch, who was revealed in leaked cables to have criticized Trump as “inept” and “incompetent,” among other things. “I will keep (Darroch) until he’s due to retire,” he said, reported CNN.
Johnson, a former Foreign Secretary, refused to go out on a limb about whether he would decide to keep Darroch on. “I won’t be so presumptuous as to assume that I’m going to be in a position to take that,” he said.
“It is vital that our civil service is not politicized by people leaking what they say,” Johnson also said. “Whoever leaked that deserves to be eviscerated.”
In a series of tweets, Trump had branded Kim Darroch as a “wacky” and “very stupid guy” after the British envoy criticized Trump in diplomatic cables that were leaked to the Daily Mail over the weekend.
Trump also took aim at Theresa May, describing the Prime Minister’s handling of Brexit as “a disaster!”
Hunt quickly responded by lashing out, describing Trump’s public criticism of the UK ambassador to the US as “disrespectful and wrong.” He also said that he would keep Darroch in post if he became Britain’s leader, and suggesting that Trump’s comments were hypocritical.
“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!” Hunt tweeted on Tuesday.
“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.”
Hunt’s defense of Darroch came amid growing speculation around whether the ambassador can remain in his position if the White House freezes him out. Darroch decided not to attend a meeting with Ivanka Trump on Tuesday following the President’s criticism of him, a source told CNN.