Today in Parliament I asked an Urgent Question about the resignation of the UK’s Ambassador to the USA. You’ll find my question and full speech here:
Pat McFadden MP (Wolverhampton South East)
(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the resignation of the United Kingdom’s ambassador to the United States.
Quite rightly, Sir Kim received the full support of the Prime Minister and the entire Cabinet. In an act of selfless duty, Sir Kim made the decision to resign in order to relieve the pressure on his family and colleagues and to protect the UK-US relationship. The Government profoundly regret that this episode has led Sir Kim to decide to resign. The tributes that have been paid to him from across both Houses, which I would add to, and from so many other corners of this country and others, have been fitting and rightly deserved.
Before we open to general questioning, may I thank the Minister of State for that pithy but very gracious statement? Many people in the Chamber will have had personal interaction with Sir Kim. He is an outstanding public servant, a point that has been beautifully encapsulated by the Minister of State. I call Liz McInnes. [Interruption.] I do apologise—Mr McFadden.
I thank the Minister for his opening statement. The resignation of Sir Kim Darroch marks a dark moment for our democracy and for the standing of the United Kingdom. He is a hugely respected professional diplomat with an exemplary record of serving both Labour and Conservative Governments. In writing his dispatches, he did nothing wrong. He was doing his job. It is his job to tell it as he sees it. He carried out his duties in the finest traditions of the civil service. These traditions are not just rusty relics from the past; they are essential to the proper workings of our parliamentary democracy. His response has been characterised by dignity and professionalism, which is more than can be said for others in this affair.
Any other President would have brushed this off and seen the importance of the bigger picture, but the response that we got was the opposite of mature leadership. Thankfully, the relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States is bigger than this matter and bigger than this President. The response of the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) was an appalling abandonment of someone in the firing line. Real leaders protect their people; they do not throw them to the wolves because they can sniff a prize for themselves. His actions were a chilling warning of what is to come if he becomes Prime Minister.
How can those in the civil service be expected to do their jobs properly now? How can they operate if they fear leaks, followed by abandonment by our political leaders? What are our ambassadors supposed to write home, from whatever country they are in—“The President is perfect. The people are happy. They sing his name in the street”? What use would that be from our postings abroad? How can civil servants advise Ministers at home if they feel that candid advice will be taken as evidence of disloyalty and treachery?
Those who welcome Kim Darroch’s departure believe that we need a civil service of true believers. They are profoundly wrong. We do not need a civil service of true believers; we need a civil service able to do its job without fear or favour, and that has become much harder this week. Does the Minister share the concern that this attack on the civil service is part of a broader attack on institutions essential to the functioning of our democracy—judges called enemies of the people; MPs called traitors to their country; broadcasters vilified as having hidden agendas?
Our democracy is under fire. Those who value and cherish it must speak up and defend it. Whipping up anger against one institution after another and dressing it up as an attack on the establishment is doing profound harm to the country. We must call it out for the insidious agenda that it is. I conclude by asking the Minister whether this is understood by at least some in Government, so that the damage done this week does not continue into the future.