PM faces questions over Pen Farthing animal evacuation after denying intervention

7 December 2021, 20:19 | Updated: 7 December 2021, 23:23

Boris Johnson faces questions over a letter about Pen Farthing's Afghan animals
Boris Johnson faces questions over a letter about Pen Farthing's Afghan animals. Picture: Alamy
Theo Usherwood

By Theo Usherwood

When we first looked at the 39-page dossier written by former civil servant Raphael Marshall, the most striking assessments seemed obvious.

A work from home culture at the Foreign Office meant soldiers had to be drafted in to help process those Afghan evacuees pleading to be saved from the Taliban.

Then Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab took hours to make life and death decisions, while fewer than 5% of those who needed help actually received it.

But perhaps the most explosive revelation was none of the above. Rather it was a claim in the depths of Mr Marshall’s assessment, that the PM personally intervened to save staff and animals at the rescue charity Nowzad, that has proved the most controversial.

Mr Marshall stating there had been a trade off saving those who worked for the charity, who were not at risk of reprisals from the Taliban, at the expense of Afghans who had helped British forces and were at great risk of being murdered by the Taliban.

Read more: 'That’s just simply not right': Raab denies prioritising Pen Farthing pets over refugees

Read more: Tory MP's powerful take on Pen Farthing dog evacuation from Kabul

To make matters worse, Dominic Dyer, a volunteer at the charity, told LBC exclusively he had lobbied the PM's wife Carrie Johnson and that he was in "no doubt" she had persuaded her husband to intervene.

That brought a swift response from Number 10 - a spokesman going on the record to state the claims were untrue and the PM, nor his wife, were involved at all in saving Nowzad staff and animals.

That was lunchtime. Fast-forward five hours and LBC received a copy of a letter sent by Trudy Harrison, the PM’s parliamentary private secretary at the time, to Pen Farthing, the boss at Nowzad.

Read more: Afghans left behind by UK to be murdered by the Taliban, whistleblower claims

In the letter, she told Mr Farthing that he and 67 of his colleagues could travel to Kabul's airport, from which they would be evacuated - a letter which seems directly contrary to what Number 10 had been saying earlier.

Now Number 10 are claiming that Trudy Harrison sent the letter as a constituency MP and not as the PM's parliamentary private secretary. But at the bottom of the letter, under her signature, it clearly states she is writing the letter as the PM's PPS.

Suffice to say, this story has some way to run, potentially at PMQs on Wednesday.