Cop-out and a failure of leadership: Theresa May and ex-ministers round on Boris Johnson in Commons

Cop-out and a failure of leadership: Theresa May and ex-ministers round on Boris Johnson in Commons
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Ministers were accused of a failure of leadership on Wednesday as MPs returned to the Commons for an emergency debate on the crisis in Afghanistan.

Boris Johnson faced fierce criticism from former soldiers on his own backbenches over his handling of the situation and questions from his predecessor Theresa May, who said: “The politicians must be responsible for the consequences.”

MPs were recalled to Parliament from their summer break, three days after Afghanistan’s capital Kabul fell to the Taliban.

Mr Johnson said the sacrifice in Afghanistan was “seared into our national consciousness” and that the UK looked at trying to stay longer.

But he sought to justify leaving Afghanistan by outlining the “hard reality” that the West could not continue the US-led mission without American support.

However, in an interview with the Standard, Tory MP and Afghan veteran Johnny Mercer accused ministers of a “cop-out” for pinning the blame on the Americans.

He said: “The way MPs have carried on over the last week, without any real direction, leadership, or responsibility, just makes [the situation] worse. Constantly blaming the Americans devalues our service even further.”

He said the “narrative that it’s all America’s fault” was “a cop-out. It’s running away from responsibility and it hurts the families”. The MP said he wanted Mr Johnson to understand the feelings of veterans and was speaking out on behalf of families whose loved ones died in Afghanistan, warning: “It all feels so pointless now.”

He added: “We could have done so much more to protect our interests and gains in Afghanistan and we chose not to, and for me that is the unforgivable nature of this. It was a choice by our current political leadership.”

Meanwhile, former defence minister Tobias Ellwood slammed the withdrawal from Afghanistan, saying: “We are actually ceding back the country to the very insurgency that we went in to defeat in the first place and the reputation of the West to support democracies across the world has suffered.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said “it’s been a disastrous week, an unfolding tragedy” in Afghanistan.

He added: “There’s been a... staggering complacency from our government about the Taliban threat. The result is that the Taliban are now back in control.”

The Prime Minister is under increasing pressure over his handling of the crisis, with MPs accusing him of not doing enough to accommodate refugees after the PM vowed to take in 20,000 — but only 5,000 in the first year.

Today he pledged not to deport people back to the “nightmare” of Afghanistan, telling the Commons: “We will not be sending people back to Afghanistan and nor, by the way, will we be allowing people to come from Afghanistan to this country in an indiscriminate way.”

Mrs May asked Mr Johnson to divulge when he first spoke to the Secretary General of Nato about putting together an alliance to replace American support. He replied saying it was “an illusion” to believe that there is “appetite” among any of our partners for a continued military presence.

Mrs May added that all who served in Afghanistan should hold their heads high, saying: “The politicians sent them there, the politicians decided to withdraw, the politicians must be responsible for the consequences.”

Mr Johnson denied claims from his own benches that the Government was not prepared and said the Taliban was allowing the evacuation in Afghanistan to go ahead, although the situation remained “precarious”.

He also announced that the UK will double its current humanitarian aid for Afghanistan to £286 million. However, critics previously pointed out Afghanistan has already experienced a 78 per cent cut as part of the Government’s slash to the aid budget.

Western states were today continuing the scramble to get their nationals and Afghan allies out of the country after the Taliban solidified its takeover by flying in its leaders.

The group posted a triumphalist video appearing to show one of its co-founders, dubbed Baradar the Butcher, returning to a hero’s welcome in Afghanistan.

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar arrived in Kandahar from Qatar, where he had been leading talks with the US and Afghan peace negotiators, following 20 years of exile. He is tipped to become the country’s next leader following the collapse of the US-backed regime.

Read More

MPs ‘can lead by example’ by wearing masks when seated in Parliament

May warns of terror threat posed by ‘wing and prayer’ Afghanistan withdrawal

Gurkha on hunger strike outside Downing Street taken to hospital

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting