Matt Frei Challenges Tory MP Over Boris Johnson's Stance On Ambassador Leak

13 July 2019, 11:23 | Updated: 13 July 2019, 11:24

Matt Frei put to Boris Johnson supporter Robert Jenrick that the leadership candidate missed an opportunity to defend British ambassador Sir Kim Darroch after his communications were leaked to the media.

The LBC presenter quizzed Conservative MP and Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury over Boris Johnson's stance on the leaked emails from the UK ambassador in Washington, which described the Trump administration as "inept".

Mr Jenrick told Matt Frei he believed Mr Johnson was 'more diplomatic' than leadership rival Jeremy Hunt in his response to the leaks during debates, saying the former London Mayor was "not willing" to draw the situation into party politics.

But when Matt put to him that Mr Johnson missed an opportunity to defend the ambassador, Mr Jenrick said the candidate did not want to get into a "tit for tat" debate on the diplomat's future.

Boris Johnson pictured with Sir Kim Darroch at an event in 2017
Boris Johnson pictured with Sir Kim Darroch at an event in 2017. Picture: PA

"I thought it was a mistake that Jeremy Hunt chose to do that," Mr Jenrick said.

"[Boris Johnson] didn't want to get into a tit for tat debate about whether Sir Kim should continue as the ambassador."

The MP added that Mr Johnson has a "very good" relationship with Sir Kim, and "respects him enormously".

"He is a superb diplomat and this is a very unfortunate situation," Mr Jenrick said.

"Sir Kim's position was compromised as soon as this individual, whose identity we do find out, chose to leak this material.

"From that moment on it became difficult for Sir Kim to continue as ambassador."

His remarks come as Scotland Yard's Counter Terrorism Command launch an investigation into the leak.

Met Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said: "Given the widely reported consequences of that leak, I am satisfied that there has been damage caused to UK international relations and there would be clear public interest in bringing the person or people responsible to justice."

Mr Basu also warned the media that further publication of the ambassador's emails could be a criminal offence, and any leaked documents should be returned to the government.

The Counter Terrorism Command is responsible for investigating breaches of the Official Secrets Act.

Watch above.