Whoever is behind the leak of sensitive diplomatic messages was intent on sabotaging the British ambassador to the US in order for them to be replaced by someone “more congenial”, a person who formerly held the role has claimed.
Sir Christopher Meyer said there was a “possible range of villains” who could be responsible for the leaking of memos in which Sir Kim Darroch described the US administration under Donald Trump as “inept”.
Sir Christopher told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Here there is a possible range of villains who come into the frame.
“But it was clearly somebody who set out, deliberately, to sabotage Sir Kim’s ambassadorship, to make his position untenable, and to have him replaced by somebody more congenial to the leaker.”
There has been fierce criticism of the mystery leaker from Government ministers.
The person or people behind it should “regret the moment for the rest of their life”, Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan said, while defence minister Tobias Ellwood suggested the leaker put “self-interest above country”.
A formal leak investigation has been launched by the Foreign Office, and in the Commons there were calls for a police investigation amid widespread anger at the diplomatic fall-out.
Foreign Secretary and Conservative Party leadership contender Jeremy Hunt said “all avenues of inquiry” would be explored to find out how it happened.
Mr Hunt told The Sun: “Of course it would be massively concerning if it was the act of a foreign, hostile state.
“I’ve seen no evidence that that’s the case, but we’ll look at the leak inquiry very carefully.”
A diplomat at the United Nations in New York, writing in The Independent under a pseudonym, said the leak was not an attempt at whistle-blowing, but rather a political point-scoring exercise.
They wrote: “This will not be a civil servant seeking to illuminate a very difficult situation or to ‘blow a whistle’ – the dysfunction of Trump’s White House is clear.
“Someone is seeking to score political points. But using the UK’s foreign relationships as chips within a domestic game is irresponsible in the extreme.”
International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, who is currently on a visit to the US, said he hoped “the full force of our internal discipline, or even the law, will come down on whoever actually carried out this particular act”.
The controversy comes just a few months after the sacking of a Cabinet minister over another major leak.
Gavin Williamson was booted out of his role as defence secretary over his alleged involvement in the leak of information about Chinese tech giant Huawei.
Leaked reports in April of a meeting of the National Security Council suggested that Theresa May had cleared Huawei to be involved in “non-core” elements of the 5G network, such as antennae.
Mr Williamson later described the investigation into the leak as a “shabby and discredited witch hunt”.
He had said he would welcome a criminal investigation as a way to clear his name, but the Metropolitan Police said the disclosure did not contain information that would breach the Official Secrets Act and therefore did not amount to a criminal offence.