Leak of diplomatic cables should be probed by police – MP Tom Tugendhat

The leak of diplomatic cables from the UK ambassador in Washington is “deeply damaging” and should be investigated by police, the chairman of the foreign affairs committee said.

The emails from Sir Kim Darroch questioned whether the White House under president Donald Trump “will ever look competent”, adding the administration was “dysfunctional” and “divided”.

A formal leak investigation has been launched by the Foreign Office, but Tom Tugendhat believes the police should also be involved.

Responding to the idea the leaks had “all the hallmarks of a senior politician”, the Tonbridge and Malling MP said: “Sadly this rings true. And that makes the betrayal all the more serious.

“How can officials give honest advice to politicians if it is stored and leaked for petty point-scoring?

“This is deeply damaging to the integrity of the UK and must be investigated by the police immediately.”

The documents obtained by the Mail on Sunday detail Sir Kim’s assessments of the Trump administration from 2017 to the present.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt stressed the comments were Sir Kim’s “personal opinions” and not the views of the British Government.

Defence minister Tobias Ellwood suggested the leaker put “self-interest above country”.

He tweeted: “We have a Rolls Royce diplomatic service, thanks it’s global reach, quality of comms and integrity of our secure reporting structure.

“Shocking to think any UK passport holder could be so unpatriotic as to deliberately leak diplomatic cables & put self interest above country.”

UK’s ambassador in Washington leaded memos
UK’s ambassador in Washington leaded memos

Mr Trump – whose policy on Iran was described as “incoherent” – said members of his administration were “not big fans” of Sir Kim.

He told reporters: “The ambassador has not served the UK well, I can tell you that.”

Sir Peter Westmacott, who preceded Sir Kim in the Washington role, said the leak put the ambassador in an “embarrassing position” and questioned who would believe they could gain from the disclosure.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, he said: “Perhaps there are people at the heart of government – the distribution of the published material was, after all, very limited – who think this will persuade the incoming prime minister to appoint in his place someone less ready to speak truth to power than Sir Kim has been; or someone already regarded as a ‘friend’ by the Trump administration.

“Giving sensitive papers of this kind to the media is the biggest possible disincentive to ambassadors to say what they really think to ministers back home.

“And without honest assessment of the facts, personalities, local context and tactical considerations, ministers are much less likely to make well-informed judgments.”

Sir Kim, a Durham graduate whose previous civil service roles have included representing the UK at the EU and a national security adviser, was given one of the top diplomatic jobs in the months before Mr Trump’s surprise election victory.

In a highly unusual intervention, the president declared in a late-night tweet that Nigel Farage would do a “great job” and that “many people” wanted to see him as the UK’s ambassador in the US.

Number 10 was forced to insist there was “no vacancy” and praised Sir Kim for being an “excellent ambassador”.

The Brexit Party leader wrote in the Daily Telegraph that Sir Kim “ought to be ashamed of himself”.

He added: “The irony is that after eight years of President Obama, the Trump presidency represented a wonderful chance for Brexit Britain to hit the reset button and do things differently.

“But with the Government having stalled over trade talks, Darroch’s appalling slur on Trump is just another example of how the British establishment has squandered the opportunity to take advantage of an anglophile president who is a natural ally of this country.

“Kim Darroch is totally unsuitable to remain as our man in the US. The sooner he is given his marching orders, the better.”