Afghans and their loved ones pay the price of a UK PM who doesn’t care

Jo Swinson was right about many things. Just after she became leader in 2019, she told Iain Dale that the worst thing about Boris Johnson is that he just doesn’t care about anything other than himself.

Nowhere has that been more obvious than in the way he has behaved over the evacuation from Afghanistan.

The way you act when you are in a leadership position is a powerful signal to those below you about how important you think something is. If you are passionate about getting something done, it’s very clear.

There’s a reasonable expectation that, at times of crisis, your leaders are going to look a bit like they are devoting everything to sort things out. You want to see a bit of worry, empathy, stress on their faces. We, instead, have a carefully dishevelled Prime Minister looking like he doesn’t have a care in the world, asking stressed staff at the Foreign Office if they are the ones being inundated by emails. I mean, I am sure that if Armando Iannucci had suggested that scene for The Thick of It, they’d have binned the idea as being too far-fetched. Ed Davey said that the video showed Johnson in his true light:

These flippant remarks show Boris Johnson in his true light, uncaring and unable to master the detail during this awful crisis.

The emails he refers to are from desperate family and friends worried that the Taliban will kill their loved ones.

Perhaps if Boris Johnson had understood and planned for the dangers of the Kabul evacuation, thousands of people would not be at crisis point.

Wendy Chamberlain added on Twitter:

Our MPs have been really good at supporting their staff with the emotional impact of this work with Ed taking time to message his appreciation.  Their caseworkers work alongside MPs supporting worried loved ones and all of them really care about the people they are trying to help.

And then we discover from the Observer today that many of the emails sent to the Government from MPs were not even read.

A whistleblower with access to the Foreign Office email accounts in question said most cases covered more than one person, meaning ministers could have no clear idea of the real numbers left behind. “It’s not just that MPs weren’t getting replies – their emails weren’t being read,” said the source. “The inbox currently has a 5,000-email backlog. It’s not that they are the emails which haven’t been actioned. It’s not even that they are emails which haven’t been processed and put into a spreadsheet. It’s that no one has actually opened the email.

Each one of those emails contains details of someone in danger. Some MPs’ offices had hundreds of cases, often involving multiple family members. Friends, colleagues and family quite rightly contacted their MPs with often harrowing stories about their loved ones who needed to be evacuated from Afghanistan. Maybe they had helped the British forces as interpreters or in other roles. Maybe they were divorced women, or women with careers, or maybe they were gay. All were among the first people the Taliban would come looking for. People were terrified of the consequences of leaving them in Afghanistan.

Imagine how you would feel if your beloved family member’s details was in one of those unread emails. I don’t know whether I feel more rage or heartbreak at this. It’s telling that I don’t feel disbelief.

If it was more work than the staff could cope with, more people should have been brought in, more troops if necessary should have been sent to manage the evacuation on the ground. We still probably wouldn’t have got everybody out who needed to be out, but we could have saved more. And we could have put more effort into creating safe corridors so that those left behind had options to leave by other means.

Our Government’s failures don’t just cover the past couple of weeks. They should have got everyone out who had helped our military before the troops were withdrawn. They had plenty of time to do so after Trump’s pathetic peace deal with the Taliban back in 2020.

The consequences in human terms are horrendous. The Independent has some horrific details of how the Taliban are already murdering gay people in the most brutal way.

Now, I love animals. My life is dominated by the whims of two of the most spoiled creatures on the planet. But it shames me that our Government appear to have prioritised the animals from NOWZAD’s shelter over humans in desperate need. What was wrong with just handing visas to the charity’s staff and their families from the beginning?

It is interesting that in Tim Shipman’s account (£) of what is going on inside the Government that No 10 seems to be going all out to blame Dominic Raab. It sounds a bit like No 10 trying to blame Matt Hancock for all that went wrong during Covid. Don’t get me wrong, both ministers are/were terrible. But in these moments of crisis the buck very firmly stops with the PM and there is no excuse for his sheer inadequacy and blatant lack of compassion.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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5 Comments

  • Helen Dudden 29th Aug '21 - 1:39pm

    Now Afghanistan is back where it started. Other avenues should be explored, but of course, not at holiday time.

  • Brad Barrows 29th Aug '21 - 2:18pm

    There should be no hierarchy of priority when considering applications for asylum. It should simply be a question of whether each individual’s claim for asylum meets the standard for it to be granted – if it does, asylum should be granted.

  • I can’t find any comment from Ed on the Isis k attack on Kabul airport, can anyone point me to any comment he made,?

  • Justin, can you point to or suggest any comment that Ed could usefully have made, that would not have been trite ?

    I did not vote for Ed in the Leadership election, but he stands in public as our leader, and therefore representative of Lib Dem sentiments and principles, and has no need, I think, to proclaim the obvious in these circumstances.

  • Roger, that reads a little defensive. I make no comment as to whether he should or should not have made a comment, only asked whether he made one. Though one might normally expect a leader of a political party to make some statement on an incident that lead to the death of U.K. citizens? As leader of the party and someone who may be in power in the next few years I am interested less in his criticism of the tories and labour, which are obvious and more in what he would do, for example, whether he supports the current U.S. policy of using drone strikes to kill members of Isis K in Afghanistan and if not what other strategy he would suggest. If he rather not make his thinking public then that is obviously his choice.

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