Doubts hang over No 10’s claims about removal of air mail letters for dogs from Kabul

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Allies of animal charity boss Pen Farthing and a Labor MP questioned Downing Street’s claims about a letter from Boris Johnson’s parliamentary assistant Trudy Harrison giving him permission to be evacuated from Kabul in August.

Number 10 said Harrison was ‘acting in his capacity as Constituency MP’ when she wrote the letter – as she continued to insist Boris Johnson did not order the rescue of Farthing and his cats and dogs before the desperate Afghans.

But Dominic Dyer, an animal rights activist who lobbies to help Farthing, said on Wednesday that neither he nor Farthing were constituents of Harrison, but that she got involved in their campaign after some of his constituents lifted her up.

“From my point of view, Trudy was in contact with the PM. I understood that the Prime Minister was determined to participate in the operation and that it was happening, ”said Dyer, who had intensely lobbied the government over Farthing in late August.

“Pen needed something he could hold at the Kabul airport. To be fair to Trudy, she did a good job and said, “I’ll see what I can do. I don’t know if she brought it to Johnson, but I can’t believe he wasn’t aware it was written. I can’t believe he was unaware that we had worked out the details.

Harrison’s letter, published Tuesday evening, was dated August 25 and signed by her in her capacity as MP for Copeland in Cumbria and “Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister”.

He said the Foreign Ministry, the Home Office and the Defense Ministry – who had raised last-minute objections – had paved the way for the evacuation of Farthing and staff from his charity from Nowzad from Kabul Airport. “So you are allowed to proceed,” she wrote.

Dyer said he believed the letter was “not a letter from an ordinary constituency MP.” He said “this was wanted because Pen did not want to rely on emails from the Foreign Office. It was there to show that he and his staff had a legal right to leave.

Harrison, however, said the letter, which had a Commons header, “was sent on parliamentary paper to confirm that the appropriate security clearance had been provided.” She added: “Although I was indeed the Prime Minister’s PPS, it was not a problem for him. This was a routine task in response to requests for assistance from many Copeland voters.

Chris Bryant, a Labor member of the select committee on foreign affairs, who raised the issue earlier this week, said he was skeptical of Number 10 and Harrison’s explanations. “I just don’t buy it. It all sounds way too practical and muddled. It still seems clear to me that the Prime Minister actually, if not directly, ordered this evacuation. He just didn’t want his sticky fingerprints all over the place.

Tory MPs contacted by the Guardian said it would have been unusual to deliberately refer to her role as Johnson’s assistant in the House of Commons if she did not intend to signal that she had the support of the Prime Minister. Party sources said there was unease over what they believed was an approach that amounted to prioritizing “animals before Afghans” in the final days in Kabul.

Farthing and more than 150 cats and dogs were rescued in one of the last flights out of Kabul, but last-minute delays at the airport forced more than 60 Nowzad charity workers and dependents to cross the border with Pakistan before they can come to Britain. “It has always been a larger humanitarian mission,” said Dyer.


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