Boris Johnson refuses to say if UK’s US ambassador will stay in post if he is PM

Tory leadership frontrunner Boris Johnson has refused to say whether he would keep the UK's ambassador to Washington in post following the leak of sensitive diplomatic messages.

The former foreign secretary sidestepped questions over whether he would allow Sir Kim Darroch to remain in the job until he is due to retire later this year, insisting it was "vital" the civil service is not politicised.

He made the comments during a televised head-to-head debate with his rival Jeremy Hunt, amid a day of high drama which saw Donald Trump describe Sir Kim as a "pompous fool" and a "very stupid guy" who had been foisted on the US.

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Retransmitted correcting byline to Yui Mok Conservative party leadership contender Boris Johnson leaving his office in Westminster, London.
Conservative party leadership contender Boris Johnson leaving his office in Westminster, London.
A blimp depicting Boris Johnson is launched in Parliament Square, London, ahead of a pro-European Union a march organised by March for Change.
A Pro EU demonstrator is seen wearing Conservative Party leadership contender Boris Johnson's face mask while holding a placard, during the �No to Boris. Yes to Europe� march in central London. (Photo by Dinendra Haria / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
A stilts-walker wearing a giant Nigel Farage's head pulling two puppets, the Conservative leadership candidates Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, during the �No to Boris. Yes to Europe� march in central London. (Photo by Dinendra Haria / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Conservative Party leadership candidate Boris Johnson jumps down from a trailer during a visit to King & Co tree nursery, in Braintree, Essex, ahead of the Tory leadership hustings in Colchester, Essex.
Conservative Party leadership candidate Boris Johnson in a fork lift truck during a visit to King & Co tree nursery, in Braintree, Essex, ahead of the Tory leadership hustings in Colchester, Essex.
Conservative Party leadership candidate Boris Johnson during a Tory leadership hustings in London.
Supporters of Conservative leadership candidate Boris Johnson before a Tory leadership hustings in London.
Conservative Party leadership candidate Boris Johnson during a visit to Wetherspoons Metropolitan Bar in London with Tim Martin, Chairman of JD Wetherspoon.
Conservative Party leadership candidate Boris Johnson during a visit to Wetherspoons Metropolitan Bar in London with Tim Martin, Chairman of JD Wetherspoon.
Conservative Party leadership candidate Boris Johnson during a visit to Wetherspoons Metropolitan Bar in London with Tim Martin, Chairman of JD Wetherspoon.
Conservative Party leadership candidate Boris Johnson during a visit to construction work for the expansion of Terminal Two at Manchester Airport.
Conservative Party leadership candidate Boris Johnson during a visit to construction work for the expansion of Terminal Two at Manchester Airport.
Conservative Party leadership candidate Boris Johnson during a visit to construction work for the expansion of Terminal Two at Manchester Airport.
Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson watches as a sheep is prepared for shearing during a visit to Nosterfield farm near Ripon in North Yorkshire, ahead of the latest hustings in York later.
Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson holds up a string of sausages around his neck during a visit to Heck Foods Ltd. headquarters near Bedale in North Yorkshire ahead of the latest hustings in York later.
Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson sits in a chair in a clothing shop during a visit to Guisborough, North Yorkshire.
Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson makes sausages during a visit to Heck Foods Ltd. headquarters near Bedale in North Yorkshire ahead of the latest hustings in York later.
Conservative party leadership contender Boris Johnson during a Tory leadership hustings at Darlington Hippodrome.
Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson makes sausages during a visit to Heck Foods Ltd. headquarters near Bedale in North Yorkshire ahead of the latest hustings in York later.
Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson during a visit to Guisborough, North Yorkshire.
Conservative party leadership contender Boris Johnson arriving at a Tory leadership hustings in York.
Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson during a visit to Nosterfield farm near Ripon in North Yorkshire, ahead of the latest hustings in York later.
Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson poses for a selfie with a steelworker during a visit to Guisborough, North Yorkshire.
Conservative leadership candidate Boris Johnson looks through binoculars on the bridge of the Isle of Wight ferry as it sets sail from Portsmouth.
Conservative party leadership contender Boris Johnson poses for a photo at the Wight Shipyard Company at Venture Quay during a visit to the Isle of Wight.
Conservative party leadership contender Boris Johnson arrives for a Tory leadership hustings in Crooklands in Cumbria.
Conservative party leadership contender Boris Johnson addresses party members at the Oaktree Arena in Highbridge, Somerset.
Conservative party leadership contender Boris Johnson thumbs up as he leaves an event after addressing party members at the Oaktree Arena in Highbridge, Somerset.
Conservative party leadership contender Boris Johnson speaking during a Tory leadership hustings at Carlisle Racecourse.
Conservative party leadership contender Boris Johnson speaking during a Tory leadership hustings at Carlisle Racecourse.
Conservative party leadership contender Boris Johnson speaking in Exeter during a Tory leadership hustings.
Conservative party leadership contender Boris Johnson sits in a boat under construction at the Venture Quay boatyard during a visit to the Isle of Wight.
Conservative party leadership contender Boris Johnson arrives to speak at a Tory leadership hustings at Carlisle Racecourse.
Conservative leadership candidate Boris Johnson looks out from the bridge of the Isle of Wight ferry St Faith, as it sets sail from Portsmouth.
Conservative party leadership contender Boris Johnson speaking at a campaign event in Wombourne in the West Midlands.
Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson (left) and Dominic Rabb in The Victoria public house in Oxshott, Surrey.
Supporters during Conservative party leadership contender Boris Johnson's leadership hustings in Crooklands in Cumbria.
Conservative party leadership contender Boris Johnson's father Stanley Johnson (left) watching his son speak in Exeter during a Tory leadership hustings.
Conservative party leadership contender Boris Johnson at a campaign event in Wombourne in the West Midlands.
Campaigners from Our Future, Our Choice (OFOC) flood Lord North Street in Westminster, London, where Boris Johnson's campaign headquarters is , with 2000 rubber ducks.
Conservative party leadership contender Boris Johnson with a supporter at a Tory leadership hustings in Crooklands in Cumbria.
Conservative party leadership contender Boris Johnson speaking at a Tory leadership hustings in Crooklands in Cumbria.
Conservative party leadership contender Boris Johnson at a campaign event at the Lion Quays Hotel in Oswestry, Shropshire.
Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson has a drink in the Munch and Wiggles cafe in Oxshott, Surrey.
Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson (left) and Dominic Rabb in The Victoria public house in Oxshott, Surrey.
Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson (centre) and Dominic Rabb (right) talk to staff in the Surrey Hills Butchers in Oxshott, Surrey.
Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson (left) and Dominic Rabb in The Victoria public house in Oxshott, Surrey.
Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson (right) interacts with local business people in the Munch and Wiggles cafe in Oxshott, Surrey.
Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson (second left) weighs some produce in the Surrey Hills Butchers in Oxshott, Surrey.
Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson (right) interacts with local business people in the Munch and Wiggles cafe in Oxshott, Surrey.
Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson (right) interacts with local business people in the Munch and Wiggles cafe in Oxshott, Surrey.
Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson (left) and Dominic Rabb, in The Victoria public house in Oxshott, Surrey.
RETRANSMISSION adding name of Hayley Monckton. Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson (centre) walks with David Alexander (left, Director of Estates at the RHS) and Hayley Monckton (front right, Director of Communications at the RHS) while touring the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) garden at Wisley, in Surrey.
Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson during a tour of the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) garden at Wisley, in Surrey.
Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson talks to a visitor as he tours the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) garden at Wisley, in Surrey.
Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson talks to visitors during a tour of the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) garden at Wisley, in Surrey.
Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson during a tour of the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) garden at Wisley, in Surrey.
Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson (centre) gestures to visitors as his staff members walk up the steps, during a tour of the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) garden at Wisley, in Surrey.
Boris Johnson pictured during a live phone in with LBC presenter Nick Ferrari, at their studios in central London. Picture date: Tuesday June 25, 2019. Photo credit should read: Matt Crossick/Empics
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Mr Johnson said: "I think it is absolutely vital that the advice that civil servants give to ministers should not be leaked by ministers and should not be commented on by ministers if civil servants are going to feel free to give that advice with the impartiality that they want."

But he refused to say whether he would keep Sir Kim in post, and instead he told the ITV debate: "It is vital that our civil service is not politicised by ministers leaking what they say. Whoever leaked that deserves to be eviscerated."

However his rival Mr Hunt, the Foreign Secretary, said he would "certainly" keep Sir Kim in the role.

"Who chooses our ambassadors is a matter for the United Kingdom Government and the United Kingdom prime minister, and I have made it clear if I am our next prime minister the ambassador in Washington stays because it is our decision," he said.

Earlier, Mr Hunt accused the US president of disrespecting the UK and Theresa May after Mr Trump's Twitter tirade about her "foolish" leadership.

In an extraordinary onslaught against an ally, Mr Trump used a Twitter post to attack the Prime Minister over Brexit, accusing her of ignoring his advice and "going her own foolish way".

Mr Hunt shot back, using Mr Trump's favoured social media platform to accuse the president of being "disrespectful and wrong" – which some likened to a "Love Actually moment", in reference to Hugh Grant's character in the romcom snapping at the American president.

In his explosive Twitter comments, Mr Trump said: "The wacky ambassador that the UK foisted upon the United States is not someone we are thrilled with, a very stupid guy.

"He should speak to his country, and Prime Minister May, about their failed Brexit negotiation, and not be upset with my criticism of how badly it was handled.

"I told Theresa May how to do that deal, but she went her own foolish way – was unable to get it done. A disaster!

"I don't know the ambassador but have been told he is a pompous fool."

Mrs May has made clear her full support for Sir Kim following the leak of diplomatic dispatches in which he described the White House as "inept" and "dysfunctional".

Downing Street said Sir Kim remained in post after Mr Trump warned on Monday the White House would have nothing more to do with him.

The first indication of that became evident when the ambassador was "uninvited" to a White House dinner on Monday evening, held in honour of the Emir of Qatar.

Sir Kim was also not attending a meeting between Ivanka Trump and the International Trade Secretary Liam Fox in Washington.

Following the meeting, a Department for International Trade spokesman said: "Secretary of state Dr Liam Fox met with Ivanka Trump in Washington DC this afternoon, accompanied by Britain's Trade Commissioner Antony Phillipson.

"They continued discussions from their recent meeting in London on women's empowerment, particularly in relation to international trade and also the forthcoming G7."

The issue was discussed at Cabinet, where Mrs May denounced the leak of Sir Kim's dispatches as "unacceptable" and stressed it was important ambassadors were able to provide "honest, unvarnished" advice to ministers.

Mr Trump's outspoken attack, the most strident public criticism of a British prime minister by a US president in decades, caused dismay in Whitehall.

It comes just a month after the Government rolled out the red carpet for the president for a state visit in which he praised the enduring strength of the "special relationship".

A formal civil service leak inquiry has been launched, but MPs called for the police to investigate.

The Foreign Affairs Committee, which will hear from senior Foreign Office mandarin Sir Simon McDonald on Wednesday, has written to the Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary and Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick about the leak.

In his letter to Scotland Yard calling for a police investigation, committee chairman Tom Tugendhat said: "This appears to be a serious criminal act."

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