It looks highly likely that Johnson did indeed personally intervene to have some dogs evacuated from Afghanistan ahead of civilians
A third consecutive session of Prime Minister’s Questions in which the eerste minister will not answer any questions because he still needs a civil servant to tell him whether or not he attended a party in his own garden (when he’s already admitted that he had) is stretching the format just a little bit.
Daar are only so many times you can ask someone who should have resigned a very long time ago whether or not they’re going to resign and have them tell you they’re not. But what choice do you have but to keep trying?
It was the same old stuff. Whatever the question, he likes to call Keir Starmer “Captain Hindsight”. On this occasion, Starmer did at least point out that the man who brought you these lines – there were no parties / I didn’t attend any parties / I did attend some parties but I didn’t know they were parties - is probably better suited than he is to wear the Captain Hindsight armband.
Arguably, the most interesting thing to happen during PMQs is what happened elsewhere. One of the various almost forgotten outrages that has been kind of drowned out by the others, is that Johnson personally intervened to have some dogs evacuated from Afghanistan ahead of Afghan civilians who had assisted British forces there, putting their lives in extreme danger.
Johnson has called this claim “complete nonsense” on live television. When he did so he didn’t offer any explanation of exactly why it was that his parliamentary private secretary, Trudy Harrison MP, had been emailing Afghan dog-handler-in-chief Pen Farthing to tell him he was “authorised” to proceed to Kabul airport, with his pets.
And while he waffled and wobbled his way around the despatch box, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee quietly dropped their report into the affair, which contains leaked emails which would appear to show that the prime minister did indeed directly intervene in the matter.
These emails are one of the many reasons, but almost certainly the chief one, that prompted a Foreign Office staffer involved in the Kabul evacuation, Raphael Marshall, to resign. “There was a direct trade-off between transporting Nowzad’s animals and evacuating British nationals and Afghan evacuees, including Afghans who had served with British soldiers,” he said at the time.
The prime minister’s willing idiot defenders were long ago reduced to having to go on television and bemoan the fact that there are so many serious things going on in the world, and all the media want to do is go on and on about “cake”. It is not worth pointing out that it’s not about cake; it’s about the prime minister breaking the law and there having to be a criminal investigation into events that occurred in his house. But at least, for a few hours maybe, they’ve got their wish.
There is something else to discuss and that’s what the Foreign Affairs Select Committee consider to be reasonably clear evidence that Boris Johnson personally intervened to fast track some dogs out of Afghanistan at the expense of people who’ve risked their lives for the country of which he is prime minister. (At least one such Afghan citizen is known to have risked his life in this way, weer, when having not managed to evacuate himself from Kabul, instead drowned and died off the coast of Calais in November when his dinghy capsized.)
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I don’t say these words lightly, but it’s quite possibly the most damning allegation Johnson has faced in at least half an hour. And naturally, as with all allegations against Johnson, the shot of the allegation itself is swiftly followed by the chaser that he has very obviously and very publicly lied about it.
We must wait to see how this one pans out. There were no dogs. No one told me about the dogs. I knew about the dogs but I didn’t know they were dogs.
In the meantime, we are told, Johnson is touring the anterooms on the House of Commons, chatting up his backbenchers, seeking to shore up support. He is, according to one such MP, telling colleagues it’s all a “witch hunt”, and that’ he’s “survived worse before”.
Daardie, you won’t be shocked to learn, is not entirely true. On previous occasions when he’s been found out to have been lying, he’s lost his job, once at Die tye and once from the shadow cabinet. On this occasion he is merely being told he should probably resign for lying. But it is also true that on those occasions he responded not by toughing it out but by going and then failing upwards. When you’re prime minister, it is hard to carry on failing upwards. The only way, in the end, is down.