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United Kingdom’s Ambassador to the United States: Leaked Messages - Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:32 pm on 25th July 2019.

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Photo of Lord Campbell of Pittenweem Lord Campbell of Pittenweem Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Defence) 1:32 pm, 25th July 2019

My Lord, I have the advantage, in language that might recommend itself to the now Prime Minister, to adopt, brevitatis causa, the most well-argued submission made by the noble Baroness who began this debate. I will therefore confine myself to three points.

The first is that this was done with malice. The precise motive is unclear, but the results were inevitable. On these occasions it is interesting and often fruitful to ask who has profited from the leak. I very much hope that those who are responsible for the investigation are pursuing that principle. Not least important is the fact that a number of people who have an interest in undermining the Civil Service sought to impugn the integrity of the Foreign Office. I doubt if anyone in the Chamber has not had some experience of officials in the Foreign Office or that any of us regard them as having acted in anything other than the public interest.

My second point is that events of this kind may well have an adverse effect on other ambassadors and inhibit their performance of their duty to send back to the United Kingdom a precise and comprehensive assessment of conditions in the countries in which they serve. There is an interesting comparison here, because what we do not know is what the United States ambassador says in private. That leads me to adapt a phrase: people in White Houses should not throw stones. However, we know what Mr Woody Johnson has said publicly. In a radio interview of 31 December last year, he opined: “The United Kingdom is in need of leadership”. It seems to me that that rather comprehensively sums up precisely what Sir Kim Darroch was saying about the United States and President Trump.

My third point concerns the conduct of the now Prime Minister, reference to which has already been made, and his abject failure, when asked on five or six occasions, to give support to Sir Kim Darroch. That is as shameful an omission as I can remember, and it was compounded by the disingenuous explanation he offered days later. The now Prime Minister is sometimes keen to use the language of empire. I have an expression from the days of empire which I think suits him rather well: he is not the kind of man to take on a tiger shoot. Members of his new Cabinet would be well advised to take account of that.