A Brexit Party worker has come forward to claim that he is responsible for publicising the diplomatic leak that led to the resignation of the UK’s ambassador to the US.
Sir Kim Darroch was forced to resign when memos critical about Donald Trump were leaked to the press. The leak has sparked police investigations.
Now Steven Edginton, digital strategist at the Brexit Party and freelance journalist, has said in a Mail Online piece that he is the one who passed the leak to the paper’s Isabel Oakeshott.
“This was not a Brexiteer plot to topple Sir Kim, nor was it some devilish scheme to torpedo the independence of the Civil Service by installing a political appointee in Washington,” he wrote. “Instead, it was simply an honest journalistic endeavour.”
He went on describe himself as “a 19-year-old freelance journalist with a passion for politics”.
He said he had been researching the civil service’s Brexit preparations after having heard “repeated reports claiming that Europhile mandarins have been quietly working to thwart the result of the referendum”, and “just wanted to discover the truth”.
It was one of the Whitehall sources he developed in this research who read out the “astonishing” letter to him, he wrote. He then approached Isabel Oakeshott at the Mail on Sunday with the story.
The diplomat, writing confidentially, had described the US president’s administration as “inept” and “uniquely dysfunctional”.
Donald Trump was enraged, tweeting that Darroch was “wacky” and a “very stupid guy”, who he would not be dealing with any more. Despite support from Theresa May and Toyr leadership candidate Jeremy Hunt, Darroch’s position was considered untenable after leadership favourite Boris Johnson publicly refused to give Darroch his backing. Darroch resigned in the following days.
Edginton says that he was worried about about “possible controversy” to take his name off the story, which was published under Oakeshott’s byline.
There is now a Scotland Yard investigation into the leaker, and some MPs have called for the leak to be considered a breach of the Official Secrets Act, prompting a debate about press freedoms to report on the civil service.
Edginton believes the response from police “could have been written in North Korea”, and that the episode has left him “on edge with anxiety”.
Edginton’s YouTube channel, Politics UK, has over 38,000 subscribers. He has contributed to Brexit Central’s website, which also lists him as chief digital strategist at Leave Means Leave. He has also worked for rightwing, pro-Leave website Westmonster and the Taxypayers’ Alliance.
He wrote: “I appreciate that my CV – and my pro-Brexit views – will inevitably fuel the conspiracy theories but I want to be absolutely clear: the leak of Sir Kim’s cables had absolutely nothing to do with the Brexit Party.”