BORIS Johnson has slapped down claims he approved the controversial airlift of hundreds of dogs and cats from collapsing Afghanistan as “total rhubarb”.
The PM and Downing Street strongly denied that he personally gave the green light to evacuate dozens of desperate animals out of Kabul at the height of the Taliban takeover.
New revealed by BBC Newsnight showed an email from the deputy principal private secretary to Mr Raab at the time discussing Nowzad staff being called forward for evacuation.
It said: “The FS is seeking a steer from No 10 on whether to call them forward now.”
And another email from Nigel Casey, the Prime Minister’s special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, showed him asking the national security adviser “to seek clear guidance for us from No 10 asap on what they would like us to do”.
But Downing Street insisted Defence Secretary Ben Wallace had the final sign off on the airlift.
Mr Johnson told reporters in Wales earlier today that he was “proud” of the airlifts and insisted: “This whole thing is total rhubarb.
“I was very proud of what our armed services did with Operation Pitting and it was an amazing thing to to move 15,000 people out of Kabul in the way that we did.
“I thought it was also additionally very good that we were able to help those vets who came out as well.
“But I can tell you that the military always prioritised human beings and that was quite right. I think we should be incredibly proud of Operation Pitting and what it achieved.”
It came after a string of emails and letters emerged that revealed MPs and officials repeatedly suggested Boris was personally giving the green light to the evacuation.
In one from the Foreign Office’s team helping with the operation, one official said the animal charity Nowzad has “received a lot of publicity” and that “the PM has just authorised their staff and animals to be evacuated”.
Trudy Harrison, then Mr Johnson’s personal private secretary, contacted a private plane company to try and secure a way out for the pets.
They claimed she mentioned talking about “the boss” and insisted she was acting with his backing.
But No10 insisted he was not in charge of the direction, and blamed officials for making it seem like that.
The PM’s official spokesman said: “It’s not uncommon in Whitehall for decisions to be interpreted or portrayed as coming directly from the Prime Minister, even when that’s not the case.”
And it’s our understanding that’s what happened in this instance.”
DWP boss These Coffey said yesterday: “Quite often it’s not unusual in Parliament and in Government for people to say… for their pet projects the PM has said it’s a priority.
“Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg described calls for a debate on the issue as “fussing about a few animals”.