Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has indicated Britain’s next ambassador to the United States should be a career diplomat from within the ranks of the Foreign Office.
Following the dramatic resignation of Sir Kim Darroch, there has been speculation Boris Johnson would seek to appoint a political figure who could get close to the Trump administration if he succeeds in becoming prime minister.
However Mr Hunt, his rival for the Tory crown, said there were some “outstanding candidates” from within the Diplomatic Service for the plum Washington posting.
“I think that one of the best things about our diplomatic service are the skills acquired over very many years by career diplomats and Sir Kim Darroch exemplified that,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Broadcasting House.
“We have some outstanding candidates who do have that experience, and we we’ll obviously look at them.”
Sir Kim resigned last week saying his position had become “impossible” following the leak of diplomatic cables in which he described Donald Trump’s White House as “inept” and “dysfunctional”.
The Mail On Sunday meanwhile has defied a warning from Scotland Yard that any further publication of Sir Kim’s dispatches could constitute a breach of the Official Secrets Act.
The paper released details of a memorandum from May 2018 in which the ambassador suggested Mr Trump had decided to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal in an act of spite because it was agreed by his predecessor Barack Obama.
He wrote: “On the substance, the administration is set upon an act of diplomatic vandalism, seemingly for ideological and personality reasons – it was Obama’s deal.”
However, with Sir Kim now set to leave Washington, the disclosure looks unlikely to have the same explosive impact as the the earlier leak.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “A police inquiry into the totally unacceptable leak of this sensitive material has begun.
“The perpetrator should face the consequences of their actions.
“It’s not news that the US and UK differ in how to ensure Iran is never able to acquire a nuclear weapon; but this does underline that we do not shy away from talking about our differences and working together.”
Following the furore over the police warning that journalists could face prosecution if they released further details of the cables, Mr Hunt again defended the right of the press to publish leaked information.
“Obviously, everyone has to respect the Official Secrets Act and the police operate independently from me, as they should in a free country.
“And they make their decisions as to when to pursue criminal investigations,” he said.
“But the point we mustn’t lose sight of here Is that a free media is one of the most precious things we have in this country.”
The latest disclosure came amid speculation at Westminster that the person responsible may have been a Brexit-backer seeking to undermine officials they considered insufficiently supportive of leaving the EU.
The journalist who broke that story, Isabel Oakeshott, dismissed a report in The Sunday Times suggesting it was linked to the fact that she was dating Brexit Party MEP Richard Tice, a close ally of Nigel Farage.
“So what? It is not a secret,” she tweeted.
“He had nothing to do with my story; has never seen the cables and doesn’t know the identity of the source. Next?”